RICHMOND — During the Redskins’ first day of practice, Josh Doctson hauled in a pass that seemed impossible to catch. Alex Smith fired off a throw into tight coverage that looked like it was on track to hit the ground.
But as the ball sailed near Doctson’s hip, the 25-year-old secured it, spun his body and blew by cornerback Josh Norman — triggering a chorus of “oohs” from the observing crowd.
Just how did he do it?
“That was luck,” coach Jay Gruden said, laughing. “He never saw that ball. … There’s no taking it away, he has great strong hands. That particular play, there is no way you can tell me that was skill.”
Gruden is probably right — though Doctson says the play was a mix of luck and the ability to react quickly. Still, that catch is far from the only highlight Doctson has produced in the early days of Redskins camp.
Four days in, Doctson has repeatedly made the types of plays expected from a No. 1 receiver. The production has lent an encouraging air to the 2016 first-rounder’s camp.
“With Josh Doctson, he’s deceptively quick,” Norman said. “Fast in the way his timing on the ball was almost impeccable. He jumps at the top of every throw.”
Last season, Doctson had 35 catches for 502 yards and six touchdowns. His play was promising at times, but he disappeared in stretches. In two seasons, he’s yet to record more than 100 yards in an NFL game.
And Doctson has yet to prove his body can handle the rigors of the NFL. In 2016, he missed all but two games with an Achilles injury. Doctson appeared in all 16 games last year, though he missed a week in training camp with a hamstring injury. When Doctson underwent an MRI on his Achilles last week, the issue of his durability came up again, though results showed nothing amiss.
Doctson said the MRI was “nothing.”
“Just tuning things up, man,” Doctson said. “Every car gets an oil change, so you’ve just got to change things.”
Gruden said it would be unfair to expect Doctson to suddenly start racking up big statistics.
“Around here, the way we spread the ball around … it’s going to be hard for one guy to have a fantasy football superstar year,” he said.
Gruden added the red zone is the area where Doctson will be “the most dangerous,” and the team plans to throw to him in tight windows on third down.
In 2017, four of Doctson’s six touchdowns came in the red zone. He was targeted 15 times and had five catches for 42 yards. In fact, Doctson led the Redskins in targets, yards and touchdowns while in the red zone last season.
“He’s been a great option for us, we just haven’t gotten many opportunities to him for whatever reason you know, so it’s not totally his fault that he hasn’t been as productive as people anticipate,” Gruden said. “Play-calling, sometimes the quarterback went elsewhere. It just so happens that that’s what the play design was. But we’re hoping that he does get more opportunities, that’s the big thing.
“That the opportunities that he does get, we just hope he takes advantage of.”
• Matthew Paras can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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