- The Washington Times - Monday, January 8, 2018

As a former No. 1 pick in his second year in 2017, Josh Doctson looked like a bust.

But if you look at this season as Doctson’s rookie year — a more realistic way, many in the Redskins organization insist, to evaluate the wideout’s progress — he looks like a guy with potential.

An Achilles injury hampered Doctson, the Redskins’ 2016 first-rounder out of TCU, to just two games in his first year, and he was also sidelined with a hamstring injury during training camp.

But Doctson made it through this season mostly unscathed — playing all 16 games, catching 35 balls for 502 yards with a team-high six touchdowns.

On the field, there were moments when Doctson came up huge, notably in Week 9 when he caught a 38-yard pass to setup the Redskins’ game-winning touchdown in Seattle. He had a wide-open 48-yard touchdown on Christmas Eve against the Denver Broncos, too.

Still, game-breaking plays were few and far between, with Doctson never catching more than four passes during a game. He had his fair share of drops, too — like in Week 4 against the Kansas City Chiefs when he let go of a potential go-ahead score in the end zone with less than a minute left.

Despite his miscues, Kirk Cousins and others have said Doctson will continue to improve with more opportunities next season.

“I do feel that we improved greatly as the season went on,” Cousins said. “I’m excited to see what he’s going to be able to do going forward. … There’s no doubt that Josh has a unique skill set when it comes to tracking the ball in the air and having a big catch radius.”

Doctson did improve throughout 2017, especially considering his snaps were limited for the first five games of the season.

In Week 7, the Redskins coaching staff decided to increase Doctson’s role, benching the struggling Terrelle Pryor. The move put Doctson at the “X” position, or the strong side of the formation. He finished with 752 snaps, the most among the Redskins’ wide receivers.

Doctson saw his targets increase as the year went on. During the last two weeks, Cousins targeted Doctson 10 and 13 times, respectively. That included throwing to him on intermediate routes, where Doctson showed he’s capable of making plays in the middle of the field, rather than being just a deep threat.

Doctson’ 78 targets ranked second on the Redskins.

“He got a really good grasp of what it’s like to be an NFL player and I think next year and moving forward, with the skill set he has, I think he’ll be special,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said.

For Doctson to truly be special, he’ll have to start turning more of those targets into receptions.

Doctson’s catch percentage was just 44.9 percent — seventh-lowest in the NFL (minimum of 43 targets). Of those seven receivers, Doctson had the most targets.

Typically, wide receivers struggle during their rookie season. Doctson’s 502 yards would have ranked fourth in the NFL among rookies, if he was drafted in 2017 — trailing just the Steelers’ Juju Smith-Schuster, the Rams’ Cooper Kupp and the Buccaneers’ Chris Goodwin.

While Doctson usually doesn’t talk to the press, he told the team’s website last week that missing most of his actual rookie year really set him back.

He said he’ll review his season to examine what he could have done better.

He said he was building a connection with Cousins “day-by-day.”

“That’s just with any quarterback, you’ve got to put in the time,” Doctson said. “Same with back home in college with Trevone Boykin, the first couple years are rough edges, and then my junior and senior year we really got going. So, it’s just a matter of that timing with the quarterback [and] chemistry.”

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

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