Doct­son’s role tak­ing shape as Redskins stay cau­tious

Re­ceiver missed all but two games as rookie with in­jury

The Washington Times Daily - - SPORTS - BY NORA PRINCIOTTI

ASHBURN | There was a minia­ture flurry of con­cern last Wed­nes­day when Redskins wide re­ceiver Josh Doct­son did not par­tic­i­pate in team drills dur­ing a prac­tice ses­sion. A week later, Doct­son was back in the fold.

The Redskins are be­ing semi-cau­tious with Doct­son, who spent some time on a bike off to the side­lines Wed­nes­day but par­tic­i­pated in team drills. A care­ful ap­proach is war­ranted with Doct­son, who missed all but two games last sea­son due to trou­ble in both his Achilles ten­dons, and the Redskins are mak­ing sure he gets am­ple rest as he is worked into what should be a sig­nif­i­cant role in the of­fense.

Coach Jay Gru­den said that rest, and noth­ing in­volv­ing ei­ther of Doct­son’s Achilles ten­dons, was why the player didn’t take on a full work­load last week.

“Noth­ing to it [last week],” Gru­den said Wed­nes­day. “Just a lit­tle rest.”

Wed­nes­day, in an op­tional work­out open to the me­dia, Doct­son caught a num­ber of passes from quar­ter­back Kirk Cousins, one of which re­quired a well-timed leap and good body con­trol as Doct­son caught it with one hand, fall­ing back­ward.

Doct­son looked in good form and mixed in with the first team, though fel­low wide re­ceiver Ryan Grant worked more steadily with the ones.

“They’re both good re­ceivers,” Gru­den said. “They’re both go­ing to play.”

One rea­son Gru­den likes Grant is ver­sa­til­ity. Gru­den said

that, while Grant can line up “all over the place,” the Redskins see Doct­son mainly as a Z re­ceiver.

“See how he does,” Gru­den said. “But Ryan can play all three spots, very good blocker, can do a lit­tle bit of ev­ery­thing.”

The Z re­ceiver lines up off the line on the strong side of for­ma­tions with a typ­i­cal Y or in-line tight end and has more free­dom to go in mo­tion than the X re­ceiver, who is split out on the weak side.

“Yeah, he can play both, but right now we’re try­ing to start him at Z and see how it goes,” Gru­den said. “That would be the plan.”

The Z re­ceiver runs a greater va­ri­ety of short and in­ter­me­di­ate routes than the X, who is more typ­i­cally a burner, and takes on more re­spon­si­bil­ity as a blocker. Pierre Gar­con, one of Doct­son’s great­est in­flu­ences, played a sim­i­lar role with DeSean Jack­son more of­ten us­ing his speed as the split re­ceiver.

“[Pierre] was prob­a­bly the best route run­ner I’ve ever seen in per­son,” Doct­son said dur­ing the first week of op­tional prac­tices in May. “So just watch­ing him and how he broke down, full speed, was just, it’s just in­cred­i­ble to watch as a re­ceiver.

“I just get ex­cited about that so just com­ing out, try­ing to do what he did in terms of run­ning his routes is what I’m try­ing to master.”

Doct­son has the traits and skills to play X or Z but, since he has said that he’s still work­ing on his tim­ing with Wash­ing­ton’s quar­ter­backs, where he spends off­sea­son work­outs and train­ing camp is pre­sum­ably where he will be best pre­pared to play come Septem­ber. The Redskins will likely split Ter­relle Pryor Sr. out wide quite of­ten be­cause of how dif­fi­cult it is for cor­ner­backs to cover him man-to-man.

Gru­den men­tioned last week that he sees a dif­fi­cult ros­ter bat­tle shap­ing up at wide re­ceiver. Doct­son vs. Grant is not nec­es­sar­ily a key fo­cal point of that bat­tle, as Doct­son’s draft sta­tus all but en­sures him a ros­ter spot.

Grant also seems to be in the Redskins plans but, he has de­vel­oped some track record of high per­for­mance dur­ing the spring and sum­mer that hasn’t been matched dur­ing the reg­u­lar sea­son.

Off­sea­son work­outs mean dif­fer­ent things to dif­fer­ent play­ers. For Doct­son in par­tic­u­lar, the next few months will re­quire bal­anc­ing a cau­tious ap­proach to his health with defin­ing and be­com­ing com­fort­able in his role in the Redskins of­fense. Over the past three weeks, that role has started to take shape.


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