Toward the end of a two-minute and 19-second interview, Redskins running back Robert Kelley offers a word of advice.
“If you’re trying to write a story on Josh Doctson, it’s going to be hard trying to crack it,” Kelley said. “Because he ain’t really going to say much.”
Chris Thompson, sitting next to Kelley’s locker, chimed in.
“Good luck with that.”
The Redskins wide receiver had already declined three requests for an interview Wednesday, as he often has this season. It’s nothing personal with the media, Doctson said while walking toward the shower upon the second request. The 24-year-old said he’s just a reserved guy.
In Sunday’s victory over the Seattle Seahawks, however, Doctson exuded a level of confidence rarely seen from the 2016 first-round pick, thumping his chest at the crowd after a 38-yard reception to set up the game-winning touchdown.
So, who exactly is Doctson? It’s a mystery that’s slowly being revealed, on and off the field.
On the field, he’s a playmaker. That wasn’t apparent during his rookie season when Doctson played just two games because of a lingering Achilles’ injury. But the TCU product has made his talent clear in Year 2. Doctson leads the team with 17.2 yards per reception, and he’s tied for a team-high three receiving touchdowns.
The issue in 2017 hasn’t been his ability, but his workload. Redskins Coach Jay Gruden wanted Doctson to show more in practice at the start of the season to receive more snaps during games. He did just that, receiving a starting role at the “X” receiver position over the past three games with Terrelle Pryor Sr., the team’s biggest free agent acquisition on offense, serving as his backup.
Doctson has had just seven receptions in those games, though, raising his season total to 11 catches.
“I feel like we should take more shots and give him more chances, I guess you can say, on those 50-50 balls,” wide receiver Jamison Crowder said. “Just watching him and seeing what he’s capable of, I feel like either he’ll catch it or nobody will catch it. . . . You can see it though, man, with the few opportunities he’s got. You can see that he has ability to go make those plays.”
The impressive catch against Seattle could create more targets for Doctson, who laid out for a deep ball by quarterback Kirk Cousins in the biggest catch of his short career. Cornerback Josh Norman considered it a redemptive moment after Doctson couldn’t secure what would have been the game-winning touchdown in Week 4 against the Kansas City Chiefs. The play led some fans to question the hype after waiting an entire season to see Doctson’s ability.
Five weeks later, Doctson made clear why he was a first-round pick.
“I told him after [we] scored, ‘Let’s make sure this isn’t a one-and-done thing. Let’s make sure this is a repeatable thing and something that people expect to have happen not just next week, not just this season, but hopefully for seasons to come,’” Cousins said. “That’s where the vision needs to be and then we have got to work in a way where that can become a reality.”
Off the field, Doctson is quiet — a rare trait to find in a millennial, first-round wide receiver. His teammates are still getting to know him, and Doctson appears to be more engaging this year now that he’s playing, producing and injury-free.
“I know a lot of people early on tried to question, ‘Do he really want to play? Is he this, this or that?’” Kelley said. It was a knock brought up publicly by former Redskins tight end Chris Cooley on the radio during Doctson’s first training camp. “Like last game, when he caught that ball, you see how hype … he gets like that. I feel like off the field, he’s quiet. But on the field, I think he turns into a monster, man. That’s what you’ve seen the last couple of weeks when he goes up for the ball. I feel like he’s a monster.”
Cousins described him as intelligent, a good teammate, a student of the game and a joy to work with. Kelley described him as a laid-back dude who opens up when he finds people to whom he can relate. Crowder, who sits next to Doctson in the locker room, said he isn’t as quiet as he initially thought.
“You can kind of tell that he got another little side to him,” Crowder said. “You don’t get to see it that much, but on the field, he’s got a little different side to him.”
As Crowder shared his perspective, Doctson walked back to his locker and overheard the conversation.
“Little rat,” Doctson playfully uttered.
“Wooooooah,” Crowder said.
“TMZ,” Doctson responded.
“But, yeah, [Doctson] got a little side to him.”
“Awww, that’s what y’all talkin bout?”
Doctson walked away, declining a third interview request.
Doctson declined another request after Thursday’s practice. As he walked away, two questions were asked: Who is Josh Doctson? What are you about?
“I ain’t nobody, man,” Doctson responded.
The mystery remains, but one thing is evident to his teammates.
“When the ball in the air, he’s trying to get it,” Kelley said. “That’s all that matters at this point.”