- The Washington Times
Sunday, September 11, 2022

On the most important snap of the game, Carson Wentz didn’t look for Terry McLaurin, the Washington Commanders’ bonafide No. 1 wide receiver.

He didn’t look for Swiss Army knife Curtis Samuel, who impressed Sunday against the Jaguars after missing most of 2021 with a groin injury. 

Wentz also didn’t look for tight end Logan Thomas, whose 6-foot-6 frame makes him a prime target both on third down and in the end zone.

Instead, Wentz — staring down the barrel of a disastrous first game with his new team — chose to potentially put the fate of the game in the hands of a 22-year-old rookie.

It worked.

Jahan Dotson, the Commanders’ first-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, beat Jaguars defensive back Tyson Campbell on an out-and-up down the left sideline, fought through contact and brought down the game-winning touchdown pass with 1:46 remaining.

“I don’t think it was a very good throw, but I wanted to give this kid a shot,” Wentz said. “I’ve seen him do that in OTAs and all of training camp. I’m glad the world gets to see what he can do now, too. For me, it was giving him a chance. … Incredible play by the rookie.”

Coach Ron Rivera said Dotson’s ability, despite being just 5-foot-11, to make tough catches in clutch situations is what convinced the organization to draft him

“That’s what we saw,” Rivera said. “That’s the young man we really felt good about. That’s why we [drafted] him. We’re very fortunate to have a young man with that kind of a skillset.”

The 24-yard score that gave Washington the 28-22 victory wasn’t Dotson’s first, though. That came in the second quarter when offensive coordinator Scott Turner called his number in the red zone. Dotson shook a Jaguars defensive back from the slot, and Wentz lobbed a pass to the back of the end zone that the rookie brought down for the 7-yard score. 

His second touchdown was also designed for him — an aspect of his debut that exemplifies the trust Turner and Wentz have in the former Penn State standout. The catch on third down capped off a 13-play, 90-yard touchdown drive orchestrated by Wentz.

“I devoted all my time throughout high school and college making sure I was ready for this moment,” Dotson said. “I made a couple plays, but that’s not all I can do. I’m ready to make even more plays for this team.”

Dotson said one of the Commanders’ biggest mistakes earlier in the contest actually spurred his game-winning score. In the third quarter, Wentz was late on a throw to Dotson on an out pattern. Campbell jumped the route to intercept the pass, giving the Jaguars good field position to take a 15-14 lead. 

Expecting Campbell’s eagerness again, Dotson’s final route began as an out, but he quickly cut upfield near the sideline to gain enough separation for Wentz to throw it up for him.

“We knew that if we put a double move on him, I’d be able to beat him over the top,” Dotson said. “Carson was just giving me a chance.”

“He ran a great route,” said Wentz, who completed 27 of 41 pass attempts for 313 yards and four touchdowns. “[Turner] was feeling the timing for that double move and having a lot of confidence in him to put it out there and give him a chance. The play he made was unbelievable.”

Dotson, who ended the game with three catches for 40 yards, was far from the only Commanders wideout to shine on Sunday. McLaurin caught a 49-yard touchdown from Wentz shortly after the quarterback’s second interception. And Samuel showed the ability that earned him a $34.5 million contract last spring with 72 total yards and a score on 12 touches.

“We’re very versatile,” Wentz said. “I think that’s what gives us the ability to do some really good things. Today showed a little bit of who we are and what we can do: running the ball, spreading teams out, underneath, taking shots. Hopefully we can keep getting better.”

• Jacob Calvin Meyer can be reached at jmeyer@washingtontimes.com.

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