Josh Doctson is confident his Achilles tendons are strong enough to carry the weight of his own expectations.
The Washington Redskins’ first-round pick a year ago missed all of training camp and all but two games in his rookie season because of injuries to the Achilles tendon in each heel. The TCU product has declared himself 100 percent healthy during offseason organized team activities. That’s good news for the Redskins, who are going to need his production.
With DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon departed via free agency, Washington is counting on Doctson to be a big part of the receiving corps along with newly-signed Terrelle Pryor.
“I got drafted pretty high, so I was ready to get out here and show my teammates and coaches and everybody I am what they drafted,” said Doctson, who was picked 22nd overall in 2016. “It sucked to not be out there. But this year it’s going to be different.”
During his lost rookie year, Doctson watched Jackson and especially Garcon, hoping the visuals of their routes makes up for his lack of practice and game snaps. All Doctson could do was watch as he dealt with “the most unique injury” he has dealt with in his career.
When compensation for the left Achilles tendon injury caused him to injure his other one, Doctson’s season ended after two catches in two games for 66 yards. The use of underwater therapy, resistance bands and other exercises to keep weight off his feet while strengthening at the same time allowed the 24-year-old to begin running again in March.
Along the way, Doctson set the goal of getting completely healthy and had to at times be held back and protected from his own desire to do too much too fast.
“I was just taking it slow, baby steps,” said Doctson, who was held out of team drills Wednesday with coach Jay Gruden saying it’s not related to Achilles tendon issues. “There was days I came out here and I would tell the strength coaches, ‘Hey I want to get out here and run,’ and those guys were telling me, ‘No, just wait, there’s no rush.’ Even during OTAs I’m just full speed but I’m also maintaining at the same time. You don’t want to do too much because it’s my second year so I know training camp is when I need to be ready to go.”
Doctson was injured during offseason camps last year, so there’s no such thing as an approach that’s too cautious this time. Gruden said Doctson had a great workout Tuesday and last week raved about the young receiver’s impressive progress.
“The big thing for him is the confidence in his Achilles, and I think he’s got that right now,” Gruden said. “It looks like he can run down the field. … If he does have soreness, we have got to taper off for him, but right now, so far, so good. I like the way he looks, like the way he runs and love the way he catches.”
Those things are still a work in progress for Doctson, who had to get his whole body back into alignment after the injury. Doctson started developing chemistry with quarterback Kirk Cousins during some informal workouts with other receivers in Tampa in late March but is spending his time on the field now attempting to recapture his rhythm.
“I was just making sure my technique is right,” Doctson said. “You don’t always get the ball, so I’m just making sure I’m running good routes and my body position and all that and I’m just making plays.”