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Dax Milne eager to continue proving himself in Year 2


It is far from a guarantee for a seventh-round pick to make a 53-man roster, let alone one that was one pick away from not being drafted. 

And yet Dax Milne has found ways to earn his keep for the Washington Commanders for the last two seasons. 

Milne was one of six receivers that Washington kept on the roster with the team electing to keep the 2021 258th overall pick over other, more experienced options. He caught the coaching staff's attention for his precise route running and dependable hands. What's more, the former BYU wideout has been named Washington's punt returner with the possibility of returning kickoffs. 

It is another milestone moment for Milne, but he is not done proving his worth. 

"What's next is finding ways to get better every day," Milne told reporters on Wednesday. "Now, it's all about winning, and whatever the coaches need me to do to help this team win, I will be there."

Preseason stats do not count, but they can be indicators of a player's development. Milne, who made nine receptions for 83 yards as a rookie, caught 10 of his 11 targets for 104 yards. Two of the most impressive highlights included a 21-yard catch-and-run against the Baltimore Ravens and a leaping grab over a Kansas Chiefs defensive back that set Washington up at the Chiefs' 1-yard line.

"Very consistent player, good route runner, very headsy guy that understands certain things about what we do and how we do it," Rivera said Aug. 10.

Being more consistent was one of the goals Milne had as he entered his second season. "I made some flashy plays here and there," Milne said, but he wanted to be more reliable. So, he practiced certain techniques to get off the ball more efficiently. His hands have always been one of his stronger traits going back to his days at BYU, when he was Zach Wilson's top target in 2020 with six 100-yard games, but he spent extra time on the jugs machine and even practiced making one-handed grabs.

The results were enough to convince the coaching staff that deserved more opportunities.

"He had a very good camp," head coach Ron Rivera said after the release of the Commanders' initial 53-man roster. "He played very well in every game."

What he showed at receiver is only part of why he earned a roster spot. As a punt returner, Milne had three returns for 24 yards, most of which were gained on a 15-yarder against the Carolina Panthers. Kaczor gave Milne his vote of confidence during camp for what he had shown in practice, and Rivera did not waste any time confirming during his Tuesday press conference that Milne was the primary punt returner.

"That's a very important role," Milne said. "It's a tough job, and it's a job that I'm very confident in myself and my ability to do. It means a lot when a head coach says that about someone, so I'm grateful for him."

Rivera was also open to the possibility of Milne returning kickoffs, saying he will be one of the players considered for the role. Milne did not take any reps returning kickoffs in practice, but he has some experience doing so at BYU, where he had two returns against Utah in 2019.

Milne seems confident in his ability to get the job done.

"I gotta be honest, it's a lot easier to catch a kickoff than a punt," Milne said with a smile. "So, I'm up for it."

Milne took a gamble on himself declaring for the draft with a year left of college eligibility. Some people, he said, might have considered it a fluke for him to make the roster last year, but he approached camp with a solid mindset and had an even stronger performance in his second season.

Now, as he prepares for a potentially larger role, he intends to keep proving any doubters wrong.

"For me to come out and prove myself again and earn the respect of my coaches and teammates again, that means the world to me."

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