- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 9, 2017

ASHBURN — At the start of the second quarter in the Redskins’ win over Seattle on Sunday, quarterback Kirk Cousins saw Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman in man coverage against Josh Doctson in the slot. Doctson broke for the outside and Cousins threw it inside down the sideline — leading to a near-pick for Sherman.

The play came down to the crux of Cousins and Doctson’s relationship: anticipation.

In his split-second decision to throw, Cousins said he tried to push the ball to lead Doctson up the field as opposed to throwing near the sideline, which would have gone out of bounds. Cousins anticipated Doctson could get to the spot while the ball was in the air.

“Those are the kinds of plays where you go back, talk about, get better at, try not to repeat and hopefully can come away with completions or better results or decisions in the future when you get a similar look,” Cousins said.

But later in the game, Cousins got the timing right — connecting with Doctson for a 38-yard catch at the 1-yard line with just over a minute left. The pass, which beat man coverage, set up the Redskins’ game-winning touchdown run.

“I told him after [we] scored, ‘Let’s make sure this isn’t a one-and-done thing,’” Cousins said. “Let’s make sure this is a repeatable thing and something that people expect to have happen not just next week, not just this season, but hopefully for seasons to come.”

That connection, Cousins said, is still a work in progress.

Doctson, the Redskins’ 2016 first-round pick, missed all but two games his rookie season and spent the offseason limited by a hamstring injury. In recent weeks, Doctson has seen a dramatic increase in playing time and his production is starting to come with it.

Doctson now has 11 receptions for 189 yards on the season for three touchdowns. Of those 11 receptions, seven have come in the last three games.

“I don’t, by any means, feel like, ‘Oh now we’ve got it figured out,’” Cousins said.

There is, however, progress. Besides his catches on the field, Cousins said Doctson is improving his blocking in the run game and is more perceptive at selling plays. He also said just being out on the practice field helps. The two can’t develop a connection if Doctson isn’t practicing.

Redskins coach Jay Gruden said Doctson is confident and still waiting for an opportunity to truly break out.

“From a statistical standpoint, people are waiting for him to have the 10-catch for 200-yard performance and three touchdowns,” Gruden said. “I think those days are coming.”

Will it be this year? The Redskins have other playmakers. Tight end Jordan Reed and Jamison Crowder were out Sunday with hamstring injuries, but have returned to practice this week. If they return, the Redskins will almost assuredly work them back into the game plan.

Doctson has been targeted just 22 times, and his 50 percent catch percentage ranks 82nd among 97 NFL receivers that have been target at least 20 or more times. Doctson is seventh on the Redskins in targets. 

Cousins said he’s still getting to know Doctson, but the receiver is constantly asking questions and wants to “do it” right.

“I’ll be the first one to say that sometimes failing, for me in my career, has been the greatest teacher,” Cousins said. “I’m excited about getting through those stages (with Doctson) such that you then can really take some big steps in production hopefully going forward.”

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