Redskins need Josh Doctson to build on catch against Raiders

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ASHBURN, Virginia -- The comment was made before the season by more than one member of the organization. Really, by anyone in the organization who had watched the Washington Redskins practice.

Each one said something along the lines of: "You should see the catches he makes in practice." After a while, though, that phrase could almost be damning because Josh Doctson didn't make those catches in games.

Finally, the Washington Redskins got to see it in a game -- Doctson hauling in a 52-yard pass against the Oakland Raiders -- an acrobatic catch over a defensive back in good position.

The trick, now, of course, is for the 2016 first-round pick to build on that catch. Was Sunday's catch the start of something for him? They know, and say, his talent suggests he should one day become their best receiver. But when?

"We have seen that in practice," Redskins coach Jay Gruden said of the catch. "It was good to see it in a game finally. Now it is a matter of continuing to work on his route tree. We know he can run a go-ball, now we have got to work on his other stuff and the timing. He has shown that he can do everything. It is just a matter of putting day after day together and game after game together. He is on the right track without a doubt."

Doctson's reps have increased, from 20 in the opener to 33 against the Raiders. However, of his past 60 snaps, 40 have been run plays (compared to four of 20 in the opener), according to ESPN Stats & Information. That's a hefty percentage, which in turn prevents him from catching passes. But they see improvement ... in practice.

"It's in his body control. He's going and attacking the ball," said cornerback Bashaud Breeland, who worked against him this summer in camp and still faces him during one-on-one drills. "At one point we was able to get a beat on him. But after a while he'll jump and go get everything. You really have to play him. You can't play the ball no more. He puts that type of pressure on guys."

Quarterback Kirk Cousins, too, has to develop a trust with Doctson, whom he's targeted only three tiems. Coaches compare Doctson's ball-tracking skills down the field with former Redskins receiver DeSean Jackson.

"Just God-given talent," Doctson said after the game. "Just attack the ball."

But that sometimes means taking chances you ordinarily wouldn't. In 2014, Cousins admitted taking time to trust what coaches told him about Jackson: Throw it even if he doesn't appear open; he'll get it.

"I do like Josh's ball skills and his ability to catch the ball up in the air and I thought, 'you know what, I'm going to give him a chance, they have been asking me to give him that chance and let's give it to him,'" Cousins said after the game. "It was scary when it left my hand ... Josh made me right but that play can go either way, you know?"

But it went Doctson and the Redskins' way. Lesson learned?

"With that will hopefully come more opportunity for him to make plays down the field on the ball where he looks like he might be covered but Kirk might give him a chance," Gruden said. "Hopefully it won't lead to interceptions, but Josh will make plays for him. We'll give him more opportunities."

In general, Cousins said recently, timing is a process -- one that constantly evolves and requires catching more than one pass. Though Doctson has been with Washington since last season, injuries have severely limited his practice time (and cost him 14 games); he practiced only a few weeks last season.

"You're always trying to tighten it up no matter how long you're together and keep it sharp," Cousins said. "There's a lot of anticipation that has to happen, a lot of being on the same page, because you can't just sit there and see everything and then let the ball go. You have to kind of see it before it happens and then trust it and let it go and believe that it's going to happen the way it needs to once the ball is out of your hands. That takes time and work."

Breeland said he sees a big difference in Doctson now that he's practiced two straight weeks without being limited.

"He gets open on all routes," Breeland said. "You get the ball to him, he's going to catch it. I rarely see him drop passes. They're working him in more and more as he gets more into the route tree. Right now, that go ball, that jump ball, he owns it."

Fellow corner Josh Norman said Doctson appears more confident in practice.

"He makes all those plays in practice," Norman said. "We're like, 'let's see it in the game, you do it out here in practice.' Lo and behold his time came, his shot was there and he made the most of it. I know there was a big, big sigh of relief for him. Now we actually see that to fruition, what he puts on the practice field. It was a beautiful thing to see."

Now what?