The past five weeks have been frustrating for first-round pick Jahan Dotson, but it looks like things are finally starting to head in the right direction for the wideout.
Dotson, who tweaked his hamstring against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 4, has missed the past five games while nursing the injury. He has not practiced much in that span outside of a day-and-a-half before the Week 7 matchup against the Green Bay Packers, but he was listed as limited on Thursday and looks to be trending towards returning to action against the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday Night Football.
"I would say it definitely feels better," Dotson said in the locker room. "I gave it way more time to heal this time around. Just being very cautious with it really helped get to the point I'm at today."
Prior to his injury, Dotson was one of the best weapons in the league, as he was tied with Stefon Diggs for the most receiving touchdowns among receivers (4). That number still leads the team, and he is tied for 12th among all pass-catchers despite missing more than a month of action.
While the fact that he missed so much time is unfortunate for the offense, the team was not overly concerned with the injury. It did, however, want to be patient, because Dotson had never dealt with a hamstring injury before.
"Sometimes when a guy hasn't had soft tissue [injuries] and then they have one for the first time, they kind of just got to get over that but he'll be back," said offensive coordinator Scott Turner. "It's going to be quicker than I think. It's not something that I'm worried about."
A lot has happened to Washington since Dotson went down. The team has won three of its last four games, and Taylor Heinicke is now the starting quarterback until Carson Wentz comes back from his finger injury.
Heinicke has not had many reps with Dotson yet, so it will be important for him and the wideout to establish some chemistry before the Monday night matchup.
"He's a smart guy," Heinicke said. "He makes a lot of good plays and I feel like I have a lot of trust in him and I'm sure he has the same in me."
Dotson's status will be one to watch for the rest of the week. The team will likely not put too much on him Friday or Saturday to make sure he is physically ready to go. That does not guarantee that he will play against the Eagles, but if he is available, he would provide a valuable red zone threat.
And considering how formidable the Eagles are from top to bottom, Washington will need all the weapons it can get.
"It would be great to get Jahan back," Terry McLaurin said. "He's a big part of our offense and what we do. He's really good in the red zone. He's really good with his route running. He's a very mature player, and it seems like he's always ready when his number is called."
Here are some other notes from Thursday's practice.
-- Cole Holcomb was absent from practice once again today. Ron Rivera said he is progressing well, but the team will see how he reacts to rehab tomorrow before making any more decisions on his status.
-- Chase Young practiced again today, and Rivera said he looked good. The team put him through some pass rush situations to watch how he reacts to the workload. "It's good to see him moving around, moving as quick as he is. We'll see how he is tomorrow morning."
-- The Commanders will face Jalen Hurts for a second time this season. He finished the 24-8 Week 3 game with 360 yards of offense, although he was not as impactful on the ground with just 20 yards on nine carries. Rivera does see flashes with another quarterback he has worked with in the past: Cam Newton.
"The young man is a heck of a football player, and he does really truly remind me of the way Cam plays. He plays with a lot of passion, which Cam did too. So, he is a very interesting young man to watch."
-- Heinicke commented on his relationship with McLaurin, saying that their bond has grown as they continue to get more reps together. They are getting "really comfortable" with each other's skill set, and there are some things that McLaurin does that can help the young quarterback.
"Obviously him being super fast and making unbelievable contested catches definitely helps me out. But I think he understands my strengths and weaknesses and vice versa and we kind of help each other out in that way."
-- Heinicke also said that the second matchup Washington had against the Eagles in 2021 is still on his mind, and it stuck with him throughout the entire offseason. Washington had a chance to keep their playoff hopes alive and nearly pulled off the win, but a fourth-quarter interception on the final Washington drive sealed the 20-16 loss.
“\[John\] Bates kind of tripped up on that dude's foot," Heinicke said. "I think if he didn't, he might've caught that thing and scored, but yeah, you kind of just go back and think about that play. What if he caught that and scored? [We] might've made him the playoffs, and who knows what would've happened?"