Josh Doctson understands his situation.
A couple weeks removed from the Redskins declining to pick up his fifth-year option, he stands off to the side of the field following an OTAs practice and recites his status on the team – he’ll be a free agent after the season – with a casualness and perspective that suggests he’s extremely aware of how his first three years in the NFL have gone.
“I won’t be the first and I won’t be the last that this has happened to,” Doctson said. “It’s nothing to be sad about, be mad about. Somebody wants you out there so it’s all love.”
Then he downplays the Redskins’ decision as any reason to be motivated. “That would mean it would have gotten to me, it would have frustrated me and made me feel some type of way,” he explains. “There’s no motivation into that.”
Instead he’s just determined to make this the best year of his career, one which has seen its ups and downs not unusual for a first-round wide receiver.
After missing the majority of his rookie year with an Achilles injury, he showed flashes of brilliance in his second season, then struggled adjusting to four different quarterbacks last year. He enters 2019 in a unique position, a mentor for the large crop of young receivers the team has stockpiled and ready for the returning opportunity to become the featured receiver the team envisioned when it drafted him in 2016.
“There’s been, what, three or four first rounds since me? So that pressure is on them more so than I am, I can just play ball now,” Doctson said. “It’s a good thing and a bad thing I guess, maybe. But it is what it is. That’s the pressure of the world versus the pressure you put on yourself. Once you see what you’re thinking about you can just relax and play ball.”
His experiences – the pressure, the expectations, the injury – will help in the way that he mentors many of his new teammates.
“It’s like college though, you know. Going from, shoot, even high school,” Doctson said. “So, this is same thing, different stage. I like it though, you know, I’ve got a lot of these guys ask me questions and look up to me, I appreciate that. I try to steer them in the right way.”
Take a look at photos from the sixth day of OTA practices for the 2019 Washington Redskins.
It’s a lot to take on for someone who knows he must perform this year – for the Redskins and for his own football future. This offseason he spent time in Rwanda, learning about its civil war in the 1990s and gaining a greater appreciation for the country’s reconstruction, all of which has helped his mindset since he returned to Ashburn last month.
“I’ve been impressed with Josh. Really, he’s come out. He’s come to work every day. He’s been in all the meetings. He’s running. I think when the ball’s in the air he’s been making plays left and right. I’m Josh’s biggest supporter up here and I’m really, really hopeful that he comes through in a big way this year,” head coach Jay Gruden said. “It’s a big year for him, we all know contractually, but for this football team for us to have success we need his input. We need his production. I think this is going to be a big year for him. If he has the year that I think he should have, then our offense should really take the next step."
That will largely depend on the team’s decision at quarterback, too. The Redskins traded for Case Keenum in March and then made a big investment in first-round pick Dwayne Haskins, two more passers that Doctson has needed this practice time to adjust to.
“He’s good, man,” Doctson said of Haskins. “He’s a quick learner I’d say. I don’t know what they did over there at Ohio State but they were doing something right because he’s came in here and he hasn’t really hesitated. He’s real quick and makes quick decisions and throws with a lot of accuracy.”
With health not a concern, Doctson now has a clear vision for how he can grow this year.
“I think with experience comes knowledge and I think I’ve gained a lot more knowledge,” Doctson said.
He’s hoping it will pay off in a big way.