Veteran wide receiver Donte Moncrief figures to be active today for just the second time since the second game of the season, by which point he had already dropped four passes. He did not play in the only other game for which he dressed. I do expect him to play today, however, and it might be his best chance of working his way back into relevance.
Originally signed in the offseason on a two-year, $9 million contract, Moncrief was brought in to be a starter after they were forced to rid themselves of Antonio Brown, and he did begin the season as the starter. In fact, he had more targets than anybody else in the season opener with 10, but he only caught three of them, for seven yards.
That is the extent of his contributions to the cause so far this year, simply because the coaching staff has determined that they don’t believe he can be trusted to make plays. Or at least they thought he needed time to gain that trust back. Perhaps now is the time to get him back into the mix.
They might now have much of a choice, after all, with James Washington expected to miss a few weeks with a shoulder injury. He will be one of the many inactives who are not playing due to injury—the others being Mason Rudolph, Roosevelt Nix, Jaylen Samuels, Mark Barron, and Steven Nelson—and the other inactive is almost sure to be Isaiah Buggs.
Moncrief drew rave reviews from his coaches and teammates throughout the offseason, but he suffered a finger injury early in training camp, and he hasn’t been the same since. He missed time then, and when he returned, he was catching the ball with just one hand to spare his injured finger.
It’s assumed that that injury has played a role in his struggles to complete catches since then. He even hinted that it has been an issue but declined to use it as an excuse. He’s now basically had another month to let that finger heal before he is asked to do anything meaningful, though, and maybe that will have helped.
Behind JuJu Smith-Schuster and the inconsistent rookie, Diontae Johnson, the wide receiving corps doesn’t have much to offer. Ryan Switzer barely plays, and when he does, he tends to get just a couple of yards on passes out in the flat. Johnny Holton gets a handful of snaps on deep shots and gadget plays, none of which have yet to live up to their potential.
The offense pretty much needs Moncrief to be able to step in and do something of relevance right now. At least become a competent possession receiver, somebody who offers another option in the passing game. Because otherwise, they’re going to have to turn into a two-tight end team, and they barely have two of those.