Because wide receiver Josh Doctson didn't really play his rookie season – he appeared in just two games and missed all offseason practices with Achilles injuries – his second year in the league really operated like his first.
His emergence in 2017 as someone capable of being the No. 1 wide receiver developed slowly; it was nitpicked each week as he made mistakes while he simultaneously showed glimpses of a dominant future. Most importantly, though, he stayed healthy.
Doctson played in all 16 games, catching 35 passes for 502 yards and six touchdowns. For each near-catch – missing a game-winning haul in the back of the end zone against the Chiefs after falling to the ground – he responded with a clutch performance – the diving grab in Seattle that led to an improbable comeback against the Seahawks. It was, in a sense, the rookie season he never had.
"I think trusting myself, knowing that I could play," Doctson said of what's changed for him now. "My first year, last year, actually playing on the field, so with the experience out there, with the good and bad, is always going to help me and hopefully I can build on that this year."
That already seems to be the case during the second week of OTAs, with a new quarterback in Alex Smith and new wide receivers in veteran Paul Richardson and rookie Trey Quinn. They've all helped add on to Doctson's broader foundation of confidence.
At Wednesday's practice, Doctson was a favorable target for Smith, who has repeatedly tested his new weapons with challenging passes to gain a better sense of their abilities and catch windows. Doctson, understandably, has a large one thanks to his frame, and had two opportunities at contested passes.
The first was thrown out of bounds thanks to tight coverage but the second equated to around a 30-yard gain, as Doctson caught Smith's ball in between defenders and came down ready to be tackled. Later, closer to the red zone, Smith scrambled in the pocket and found Doctson for a touchdown over the middle in the back of the end zone.
Here's photos from the Washington Redskins OTAs practice that took place Wednesday, May 30, 2018, at the Inova Sports Performance Center at Redskins Park, presented by Loudoun Economic Development.
"At the end of the day, we don't know if these guys can come down with the ball unless we give them some opportunities," head coach Jay Gruden said. "I want to see the receivers play the ball in the air. We've had our share of plays down the field. Josh [Doctson] had a great catch today. [Brian] Quick had a couple. Robert Davis had a nice catch today. And then defensively, we had some great pass breakups. That's what I'm looking for."
"In three years I've been playing, I'll have three different quarterbacks from college with Kirk [Cousins] and now Alex," Docston said. "It's an adjustment, but everybody has a different goal. Everybody sees things different. Right now we're all clicking and just continuing to click and will until training camp."
Gruden said he's noticed a change in Doctson's confidence on the field, noting that the next few weeks are all about getting reps with the new parts on offense and enhancing the comfort level with a new pass thrower.
"You can see that confidence in the routes that he's running," Gruden said. "And every day we're going to get different looks. We're going to get cloud tech, we're going to get bump-and-run, we're going to get outside leverage, inside leverage, boxes and all that good stuff. But for him to just continue to see different coverages, different looks, different techniques with the routes that we have called, he'll be a much better player.
"We just continue to teach him and coach him and continue and get better and better, see the looks like I said, but he's an ultra-talented kid, without a doubt," he added. "His ball skills are top-notch and we've just got to find ways to get him the ball in those situations."
Doctson is hoping to take the next jump in his career as he becomes a more involved member of the offense, but it's practices like Wednesday -- testing routes, catching tough passes -- that make that goal more tangible.
"It's just being comfortable, man," Doctson said. "Like I said, just being able to trust myself. That's the biggest thing with confidence level. If anybody can be confident, they'll be fine. We have high school players that could come out here and play just with confidence. That's all it is. It's kind of surreal when you first get here and last year was my first year playing, so it calmed me down. Now, it's back like I was at TCU."