Commanders

Dotson feels he's building strong connection with Wentz

Commanders
Jahan Dotson catches a pass

ASHBURN, Va. -- Chemistry between Carson Wentz and his receivers has been a constant talking point at Washington Commanders' training camp.

It makes sense, too. Wentz, an offseason acquisition by trade via Indianapolis, is still learning Scott Turner's offensive system. Terry McLaurin, the team's No. 1 wideout, was absent for all of minicamp and OTAs while going through contract negotiations. Jahan Dotson, the Commanders first-round pick, is still adjusting to the NFL life, while veteran Curtis Samuel has been rotating on and off the field for much of camp.

With all of those factors in place, it's going to take time to build those connections between Wentz and his receivers. But as training camp has continued on, Dotson is encouraged by the progress that's been made.

"I feel like we're building a great chemistry with the quarterbacks," Dotson said following Wednesday's practice. "Taylor [Heinicke], Carson, Sam [Howell] are looking good. The guys are looking great. It's going to keep building every single day as we get these reps out here at practice. We're gonna be good."

Just a few minutes earlier, head coach Ron Rivera shared similar words of encouragement about Wentz.

"I think he's done a nice job with it. I like his command in the huddle," Rivera said. "I like when he gets to the line of scrimmage and goes through what he does. I think he's still getting used to his teammates."

 

Rivera then emphasized that Wentz is still learning each of his receivers' specific tendencies, which is part of the reason why his connection with them remains an ongoing process.

"I think the biggest thing, more than anything else, is watching him continue to work on getting a feel for that timing with the receiver group. That's one of the hardest things you've got to do," Rivera said. "You've got a group of guys terrifically fast, but they all have their own speed and quickness. Some guys come out of breaks differently with a little more drive, some guys will take some build-up. He's got to get used to that."

Wentz's connection with McLaurin has looked a lot better this week than at the beginning of training camp, but it remains a work in progress. As it stands now, it's clear Wentz's chemistry is best with Dotson. The 29-year-old looks the most comfortable when targeting Washington's rookie, which likely stems from the sheer number of reps they've gotten together since the spring.

Although the early signs between Wentz and Dotson have been promising, the rookie receiver knows there's plenty of more work to be done.

"We're still working stuff out in the playbook. I'm new to the playbook, Carson is new to the playbook," Dotson said. "We're still trying to figure out the timing, the depth, the spacing, everything we need to be successful on the field. Those reps we have in practice, it's all helping. It's all building to be great."

At Penn State, Dotson made plays in all three levels of the passing game. His speed and athleticism gave him advantages over defenders in the short passing game, while his exceptional catch radius allowed him to be a consistent contributor in the second level and as a deep threat.

Thus far in Washington, it's been the intermediate level where Dotson feels his chemistry with Wentz has been at its best.

"The intermediate stuff is where you can really see the drastic difference," Dotson said, comparing his chemistry with Wentz from the spring until now. "We're still trying to figure things out. We're taking it day by day."

When Dotson was going through the pre-draft process this past winter, one area of his game he consistently received the most praise was his strong hands. After the Commanders selected Dotson 16th overall, both Rivera and general manager Martin Mayhew specifically mentioned the wideout's excellent hands and wide catch radius.

Through OTAs, minicamp and now two weeks of training camp, Dotson has shown exactly that. He's routinely hauled in throws that have been slightly off target and made them look routine, too. On Wednesday, there was one play where Dotson went to the ground to snag a pass from Wentz. It was quite a difficult snag, but the rookie made it look so easy that it barely turned heads.

For Dotson, that's just business as usual.

"Wherever the quarterback puts the ball in the air, I have to go get it. It's my obligation to catch the football," Dotson said. "I feel like that's what I got to do. The quarterbacks, they are on a footwork, timing basis and we have to be in that spot at the right time. So it's my job to get there and go get the ball."

 

Wentz's accuracy has been up-and-down throughout camp; even Rivera admitted as such this past Saturday. Yet in Dotson's opinion, he's been pleased with his quarterback's ball placement and timing.

"Overall, a great quarterback. Someone I look up to," Dotson said. "He puts it on the money anytime I need it there. Like I said, it's my job to go get it. He puts it there."

Yes, Dotson's first training camp has thus far been a success. He's expected to have a big role in Washington's offense and his play has justified why.

Still, though, he understands there's plenty for him to learn, both now and in the future.

"I'm still a 22-year-old kid just learning the ropes," Dotson said. "Pretty much just coming in every day and learning to be a professional, taking it day-by-day, step-by-step and taking the corrective criticism I can take from my peers. You can never stop learning."