Covered by veteran cornerback Greg Toler on his first full day of practice in three months, Washington Redskins rookie wide receiver Josh Doctson deftly used his speed and long limbs to reel in the first two balls thrown his way. But he lost sight of a deep, arcing ball heaved toward the end zone, and at the last second, it fell through his outstretched fingertips.
Toler, who had also lost sight of the ball while sprinting in pursuit, praised the rookie afterward, telling Doctson that he had handled a tough situation like a pro.
“The best thing you did right there, is you were patient on the arrival of the ball. You didn’t show me your hands too early so I could make a play on the ball,” Toler told Doctson as the two trudged back from the play together. “That’s a veteran move.”
With that, the on-field education of the Redskins’ first-round draft pick got underway in earnest Monday at Redskins Park.
Given that it was his first full practice since May, when his left Achilles’ tendon started aching, Doctson said he was encouraged to finally run some basic routes against NFL defensive backs. But he immediately tempered expectations that he’ll make his pro debut in Monday’s season opener against Pittsburgh – at least in anything other than an emergency role – indicating that he felt he had a long way to go before reclaiming the form that made him a standout at Texas Christian.
“I’m not going to step foot on ‘Monday Night [Football]’ or put the uniform on and run out there and get myself embarrassed,” Doctson told reporters following the team’s 90-minute practice at Redskins Park. Ticking off the names of veteran receivers Pierre Garcon, DeSean Jackson, Jamison Crowder and Jordan Reed, he said: “We got guys who’s going to get it done.
“I’m just – if somebody gets tired, I’m gonna go in there and help out.”
The 6-foot-2, 206-pound Doctson missed all of training camp, as well as all four preseason games, after the Achilles’ flare-up during offseason workouts. Team officials placed him on the NFL’s physically-unable-to-perform list July 28.
It was then, Doctson revealed Monday, that he was told he could miss eight to 12 weeks.
“That’s why Scot hit his hand and everything,” Doctson said, alluding to the report that Redskins General Manager Scot McCloughan broke his left hand punching a wall upon learning that his first-round pick could miss significant playing time.
Happily, Doctson said, he recovered quickly from the prescribed therapy, which he described as “shock-wave treatment.”
His first full-pads practice Monday was a welcome development for Coach Jay Gruden, who liked what he saw from Doctson and didn’t rule him out of Monday’s opener. Looking on from the sideline were McCloughan and Redskins President Bruce Allen.
The next step, Gruden said, is to put Doctson through more contact drills Wednesday and Thursday and evaluate how he recovers. “We’ll see how he’s doing tomorrow, and then we’ll push him again Wednesday and see where he’s at, both physically and mentally, and we’ll make a decision later in the week” about Monday’s game, Gruden said.
Wide receiver wasn’t among the Redskins’ areas of need heading into the 2016 draft. But McCloughan stuck with his philosophy of taking the athlete he deemed the best available and chose Doctson, whom he declared “a slam dunk,” with the 22nd overall pick.
A Heisman Trophy candidate in 2014, Doctson recorded a TCU-record 79 receptions for 1,337 yards and 14 scores in 2015. Heading into the NFL draft, he got high marks for his ability to separate from defenders. One scout called him a “touchdown-maker.”
Toler, an eight-year NFL veteran, said he was happy to draw the assignment of covering Doctson on Monday, eager to test himself against a young, talented receiver he wasn’t familiar with.
At 6-2, Doctson is the Redskins’ tallest wide receiver by two inches. Garcon, 30, is 6-0. Jackson, who will turn 30 in December, is 5-10. And second-year wide receiver Crowder is 5-8.
“He definitely has an upside,” Toler said of Doctson. “He’s fast; a bigger-stature guy. He comes out of his break pretty well and has sure hands.”
To hear Doctson talk, he’s a poor substitute for his former self.
“I’m rusty, obviously,” Doctson said. “Three months not being able to run? Run a route?”
Battling negative thoughts, wondering whether he’d ever get healthy again, was also a struggle, he said.
For now, he simply wants to regain a feel for the game. Monday was a first step, and Doctson said he was pleased to “break a sweat” and not feel winded when practice was over. Going forward, he needs to fine-tune his route-running and learn the specific routes he’ll be called on to run as a Redskin.
“I’ve got to get back in the mix and back in the rhythm, just being the finesse guy I am on the field,” Doctson said. “I’ve got to make plays out here [on the practice field] before I can make them on Sunday or Monday.”
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