Jahan Dotson trying to 'be a sponge' during his first OTAs

Jahan Dotson

ASHBURN -- Jahan Dotson is embracing the challenge.

A four-year standout at Penn State, the Commanders' first-round pick routinely torched Big Ten defenses throughout his college career. His production, obviously, did not go unnoticed. 

But now, Dotson is no longer in Happy Valley. Routinely dusting NFL cornerbacks the way he did in college will not be easy. And after completing his first OTA session as a Commander, the wide receiver can already tell a major difference in the talent of the defensive backs.

"They're professionals, you can tell," Dotson told local media on Tuesday. "In college, some guys, with the speed of the game, it would speed up for them, they would kind of not resort back to their training. But these guys, they're very sound in their technique. And they resort back to their training, whatever they're trained to do, they're going to do that. And they do it at a very high level."

Luckily for Dotson, the 16th overall pick has the chance to face a pair of quality cornerbacks, William Jackson III and Kendall Fuller, in practice on a daily basis. Having the opportunity to learn his craft against two above-average defensive backs should significantly help Dotson's development this offseason in preparation for his rookie campaign.

"Just learning those ins and outs every single day, learning the feel of guys on the defense, is going to help me tremendously," he said.

The weather for Tuesday's session, Washington's first on-field practice, did not do the players any favors. A slight rain drizzle remained throughout the entire two hours, as the Commanders ended the workout without the sun breaking through for even a minute.


Still, despite the wet and unfriendly conditions, head coach Ron Rivera was impressed with what Dotson was able to show.

"I like his route running. I think he runs very good routes," Rivera said. "He's very precise with them and he's got natural hands. It's just a matter now of him learning and developing and growing within the scheme and really just refining his game."

Dotson was typically the second or third receiver to go through individual drills, but he did see multiple reps with the first-team offense during 9-on-9 and 11-on-11 sessions. He also had the chance to catch several passes from new Commanders quarterback Carson Wentz, something he called "a dream come true."

The 16th overall pick said that Wentz's precision was something that specifically stood out to him. While he hasn't been able to spend too much time with his new quarterback, Dotson is hoping to learn as much as possible from the seventh-year veteran during OTAs and, later, mandatory minicamp.

"I'm just getting to know [Wentz] every single day, learning more and more about him," Dotson said. "So that's kind of my job during these OTAs is just to be a sponge and learn as much as possible - so I'm definitely going to be in his ear learning as much as possible from him."

Although Tuesday's session should have been highlighted by Dotson's first practice, the major storyline from OTAs was about a player that wasn't there. Star wideout Terry McLaurin, who's entering the final season of his rookie contract, is holding out from OTAs as his camp and the Commanders continue to iron out a new deal.

Rivera expressed confidence that a deal will come to fruition. But as teammate Jonathan Allen said on Tuesday, the NFL is a business. Nothing is guaranteed until pen meets paper.

With McLaurin now in a full-blown holdout, Dotson said he's yet to speak with Washington's WR1. Still, though, the Commanders rookie believes he's been able to pick up tips from the other veterans in the receiver room.

"I haven't talked to Terry, but some of the vets in the room, like Curtis Samuel, Cam Sims - and even Dyami Brown has been extremely helpful for me," Dotson said. "Just talking with those guys each and every day, getting feedback on practice, and how the script is going and stuff like that. It's good just to talk to those guys and kind of just learn more about them."


Samuel, who was a full participant in Tuesday's practice after an injury-riddled 2021 campaign, was asked his first impression of Dotson. Samuel liked what he saw.

"A young guy, y'all seen everything he did in college. He's a great player," Samuel said. "Good to have on the team. There's no such thing as too much weapons. We're just trying to make the offense a good offense this year."

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Dotson enters a unique situation as a rookie. Unlike some of his fellow first-round wideouts, the 22-year-old is not expected to come in and be his team's top wideout right away. Should McLaurin's contract negotiations be sorted out, and should Samuel remain healthy -- two big ifs -- the Commanders hope the Penn State product can be another versatile talent to a much-improved offense.

Still, though, the expectations are high for Dotson, especially from his head coach.

"He knows how to act like a pro and be a pro. So that's a really good thing," Rivera said. "He and I had a nice conversation when we first drafted him, we first came in, had a chance to talk to him about, 'hey, look, you know, you're the lead rookie. You're the guy that's going to set the tone for the group.' And he seems to adjust to it very well and accepted that very nicely.”

With the season still roughly three-and-a-half months away, OTAs are supposed to be a learning period -- especially for rookies. Dotson admitted he's still working on becoming more comfortable with the playbook and even compared it to learning a new language. 

Time is on his side, though. And, with almost all of OTAs and minicamp still ahead of him, Dotson's goal is just to get a little better every day.

"Going against these guys every day, learning from these guys, being a sponge and just collecting all the information possible, each and every day, it's great for me," Dotson said. "It's great for the team. I'm just trying to help the team in any way possible I can."