RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — An NFL player doesn’t get an MRI just for fun, so Josh Doctson undergoing one seemed problematic.
Even though Doctson played every game last season, the memories of Achilles tendon injuries almost entirely wiping out the 2016 first-round pick’s rookie year are fresh. But he and the Washington Redskins are sticking with the idea of not being overly concerned.
“Just tuning things up,” Doctson said. “Every car gets an oil change.”
Coach Jay Gruden said last week’s MRI coming back clear meant no reason for alarm, and the young wide receiver reported feeling good and looks the part early in camp. Health is half the battle for Doctson, who at 6-foot-2 with good hands and instincts has the chance to be a dynamic part of Washington’s offense.
“He can definitely be one of the top receivers in this league with his leaping ability and his size and him being able to run down the field,” fellow wideout Jamison Crowder said. “The main thing is just him staying healthy. If he can stay healthy, man, he has all the potential.”
Doctson’s 2017 is evidence of that potential: 35 catches for 502 yards and six touchdowns. He was one of five players with at least 500 yards receiving as quarterback Kirk Cousins spread the ball around, and Gruden doesn’t expect that to change this season under Alex Smith.
“It’s going to be hard for one guy to have a fantasy football superstar year,” Gruden said. “I think in the red zone is where (Doctson is) going to be most dangerous, that’s where were hoping that he can really dominate in that area of the field and some tight window throws on third down. Just continue to get better and better and when the ball is there for him and he goes out and makes the tough catches.”
Doctson is unwilling to share personal elements of his game he’s working on, but there’s no doubt with his size that Smith will be looking his way on Gruden’s patented fade routes in the end zone. The TCU product’s leaping ability helps him stand out and has been noticeable in one-on-one drills against star cornerback Josh Norman.
“He’s unique,” Norman said. “With Josh Doctson, he’s deceptively quick — fast in a way that his timing on the ball is almost impeccable. He jumps at the top of every throw, it seems, and then jump balls he’s just special.”
Gruden hopes Smith gets Doctson more touchdown opportunities this season to show what he can do. That should happen assuming the Achilles tendon problems are over and Doctson moves into what’s essentially his second NFL season.
The biggest challenge Doctson sees for himself now is developing chemistry with Smith, who likes to review plays with receivers in practice and tell them exactly what he wants. That’s different from Cousins and TCU QB Trevone Boykin, so Doctson has to adjust.
“Alex might throw a little different ball than Kirk or my quarterback in college, so it’s just kind of getting on page with Alex,” he said.
Doctson is able to do that because he’s on the field and healthy, a trend the Redskins hope lasts all season.