- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 19, 2017

NEW ORLEANS — For the first half, the connection between Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins and wide receiver Josh Doctson was perhaps the best it’s ever been.

Then it stopped.

Doctson went catchless in the second half of the Redskins’ 34-31 loss Sunday to the New Orleans Saints.

“We were into some bigger people type of personnel (in the second half,),” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said.”We were running the ball pretty well and making some keepers off of them. We were still moving the ball pretty effective. … We were just going to other people.”

There’s always going to be a certain amount of attention on Doctson’s role, especially given the Redskins drafted him with the 16th pick in 2016. The wide receiver’s injury history has made fans anxious for him to get going, as well.

For the relationship to truly develop, Cousins has routinely said Doctson needs to be on the field and get practice reps for that to happen.

But there have been significant developments over the course of the season, and Doctson had a solid game against the Saints.

By the end of the first quarter, Doctson already had a career-high in yardage with 66. He finished with 81 yards and four receptions, tying a career-high in catches.

The Redskins used Doctson in a variety of ways, too — with Cousins finding him on screens, intermediate throws and in tight windows. Finding Doctson in tight windows has increasingly been a strength of the wide receiver.

On Sunday, according to NFL’s Next-Gen stats, Doctson created only 1.6 yards of separation per catch, but still managed to catch 57 percent of his passes — meaning even when Doctson is mostly covered he can still catch the ball.

Cousins praised Doctson’s ability to grab “50-50” balls after the game.

“Josh did a phenomenal job and we have talked about it,” Cousins said. “We have said that is something he does really well. We need to continue to give him opportunities.”

So why did it stop?

“They took him away for whatever reason and I worked somewhere else,” Cousins said.

• Matthew Paras can be reached at mparas@washingtontimes.com.

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