Josh Doctson will end 2018 with more catches than he had in 2017 and he needs just three more yards in the Redskins' season finale to surpass last year's total in that category, too.
However, when you look at the numbers — 42 grabs this season to go along with 499 receiving yards — you realize the growth from the 2016 first-rounder is much more marginal than major.
On Sunday, one day after his team's difficult Week 16 loss vs. the Titans, Jay Gruden was asked to assess Doctson's campaign. At first, he focused on the positives.
"I think he's shown some improvement, yes," Gruden said. "I think he's fought through some injuries here the last couple of weeks... I really appreciate him fighting through the pain and trying to make some plays. I think he's shown more physicality at the receiver position, both in the running game and the passing game."
For someone whose rookie year was ruined by a mysterious Achilles injury, Doctson's durability has been a lot better since then. He played every game in 2017, has missed just one in 2018 and, like his coach explained, has persevered through a few issues to continue to take the field for the 7-8 'Skins.
Toughness questions surrounded No. 18 early on, but those are largely gone now. Yet as Gruden worked through his answer, he touched on something else that has consistently followed the receiver throughout his career.
"I still would like to get him more opportunities to make some plays on the ball down the field, and we've just got to continue to try and press that issue with our quarterbacks," Gruden said. "Having played three, four quarterbacks, sometimes it's hard for them to trust the fact that this guy does have a 42-inch vertical and you've got to get him some 50/50 opportunities."
The desire to get Doctson more opportunities, more chances on jump balls and more looks down the field is something Gruden brings up all the time. It's something that Kirk Cousins touched on when he was here, too, and you heard Alex Smith mention it while he was healthy.
Unfortunately, that desire has yet to translate to a week-in, week-out rhythm between the 26-year-old, his coach and his passers during his almost three-year tenure with Washington. He's never topped 90 yards in a game and his career high for grabs in a single contest is six, a figure he's reached just once.
As a sophomore in the NFL, he did haul in six touchdowns and orchestrated some very acrobatic highlights, using that vertical that Gruden is fond of. But he's only reached the end zone twice this season, his yards-per-catch is down almost 2.5 yards and he hasn't created as many dynamic, athletic snags.
Overall, in 32 appearances, he's compiled 79 catches for 1,067 yards and 8 TDs. Those are numbers he and the organization would like him to get to in one season, not over the course of three.
Of course, the lack of progression doesn't fall 100-percent on Doctson. The unbelievable rash of injuries to the Redskins' QBs has no doubt affected every WR's statline. Gruden, meanwhile, regrets not getting him more involved.
With all that being said, he too often disappears for long stretches, doesn't separate enough from DBs and has, so far, looked more like a decent third wideout as opposed to a strong No. 1 worth the 22nd overall pick the franchise invested in him.
So, all parties involved are about to enter the offseason again wondering how to fully unlock Doctson's talents. Everyone needs to be better come next September, or else 2019 could very well be his last in D.C.
"I think he can do a lot more, but I think the quarterbacks can give him a lot more looks," Gruden said. "Hopefully in the future that will happen."
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