ASHBURN, Va. (AP) — Josh Doctson has heard the question for more than a year, everyone wanting to know when the Washington Redskins’ 2016 first-round draft pick would be able to contribute.
Well, the answer could be this weekend.
A sore Achilles tendon ruined ther former TCU star’s rookie season and a hamstring injury limited him during training camp this summer. But after a full week of practice, Doctson said he will play in the season opener when the Redskins host the Philadelphia Eagles.
“I’m just trying to maintain so I can be ready for Sunday,” said the soft-spoken wide receiver, who avoided reporters for weeks when he was injured and only relented Wednesday for a brief interview.
Last year’s health woes took a mental toll on Doctson as he appeared in just two games and practiced rarely. He visited one specialist after another, never got an answer about what caused his persistent Achilles tendon soreness and was placed on injured reserve Oct. 21; only months of rest seemed to have a positive effect.
Now Washington is about to find out just what they have in Doctson.
At 6-foot-2, 206 pounds, he showed flashes of brilliance during offseason workouts and training camp practices, drawing praise from teammates for his route running, his strong hands and a 40-inch vertical leap that lets him beat defenders even when covered well.
“We just need him out there for him to be able to show what he can do and really make a difference for our team and for our offense,” Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins said. “I’m excited for that — just like I’m sure the fan base is — to see what he’s got in the tank.”
Save for a 57-yard catch against Dallas in Week 2 last season, Doctson hasn’t proven anything yet. And Washington doesn’t have the luxury of giving him a learning curve in 2017 after veteran receivers DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon left via free agency.
It was the first time in NFL history a team has lost two 1,000-yard receivers in the same offseason and puts immediate pressure on Doctson to stay healthy and produce. Asked about the Redskins’ receivers, Philadelphia safety Malcolm Jenkins mentioned free agent acquisition Terrelle Pryor, tight end Jordan Reed and slot receiver Jamison Crowder.
“The jury is still out,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said.
Doctson missed the preseason opener with a hamstring injury and was held out of the third and fourth exhibition games with hamstring and groin tightness. His entire preseason consisted of 18 snaps and one catch in an Aug. 19 game vs. Green Bay, which scrounged up ugly memories of the loneliness and isolation of his rookie year.
Teammates who have been through long injury recoveries sensed Doctson’s trepidation. Redskins running back Chris Thompson broke his back and tore the ACL in his left knee in college at Florida State and tore the labrum in his left shoulder as a rookie with Washington in 2013 but has since recovered to play in 29 of the past 32 games.
“Maybe at certain times this year early on he was feeling good,” Thompson said. “But you still don’t forget about it. You’re still nervous even though you know everything is fixed. Josh has worked for a long time, and he’s not thinking about being hurt anymore and we’ve been able to see the type of player he is.”
Crowder is questionable with a hip injury, and if he doesn’t play Sunday it could open up more playing time for Doctson along with Pryor, Ryan Grant and Brian Quick.
“I’m just excited,” Doctson said. “But you can’t make it bigger than it is.”
NOTES: Gruden said Grant would start if Crowder doesn’t play against the Eagles. … Along with Crowder, C Spencer Long (knee) and LB Ryan Anderson (neck stinger) are questionable.