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Soaking It In: Commanders Rookie WR Taking 'Sponge' Approach in OTAs

Jahan Dotson is trying to take everything in early on at OTAs for the Washington Commanders

Jahan Dotson might need to change his nickname to sponge following OTAs. He's trying to suck everything in during the early days of his Washington Commanders' career. 

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Dotson, the 16th overall pick in the 2022 draft, showed the consistency factor during his four seasons with Penn State. He often won one-on-one matchups against Big Ten defenses. Coaches got to see the speed in action while his production only improved in time. 

All that will change once one enters the pros. Dotson is now taking a crash course on how to win against even some of the practice squad players who will give fits on the regular. 

"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," Dotson said Tuesday. "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."

Perhaps facing top talent in the secondary is a good thing for the Commanders' rookie. Washington is expecting exceptional results from him right out the gate after insufficient play from its No. 2 target since Ron Rivera's arrival in 2020. 

Dotson has been lining up against defenders such as Kendall Fuller or William Jackson III. He's gone up against second-year defender Benjamin St-Juste and even versatile defensive back Bobby McCain when taking reps in the slot. 

All four defenders have reps in NFL games thus far in their careers. That's still something Dotson has yet to see, but he views it as a learning tool to figure out the ins and outs of route-running. 

Speaking of route-running, that was the selling point for Rivera when on the clock. At Penn State, Dotson served as the top weapon, often using his crisp, clean breaks to win at the line of scrimmage and in the open field. 

It led to massive production and an eventual top-20 selection. Dotson finished his Nittany Lion career with 183 catches for 2,757 yards and 25 touchdowns while averaging 15.1 yards per play. 

"He's very precise with them and he's got natural hands," Rivera said of the rookie. "It's just a matter now of him learning and developing and growing within the scheme and really just refining his game."

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Dotson will serve as a complement to Pro Bowler Terry McLaurin during the regular season, but he currently is getting reps working some drills as the top option. McLaurin has not appeared at OTAs in the midst of contract negotiations, thus leaving a hole as the No. 1 receiver spot. 

Instead of worrying about what he could be learning from a fellow Big Ten alum, Dotson is taking the time to learn about his fellow receivers. Much like him, the Commanders have high hopes for former Carolina Panthers' slot receiver Curtis Samuel and 2021 third-round pick Dyami Brown. 

"Just talking with those guys each and every day, getting feedback on practice, and how the script is going and stuff like that," Dotson said. "It's good just to talk to those guys and kind of just learn more about them."

For as much of an impression the vets have made on Dotson, the same could be said on the rookie's impact with those excluding McLaurin. 

"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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If Washington is to contend for the NFC East title, it'll need strong offensive production. McLaurin should return by the start of the season barring a holdout, but questions still surround the receiver room as a whole. The could be said at quarterback with Carson Wentz. 

Rivera always has expecting nothing short of the best from his players regardless of ages and experience. That hasn't changed for Dotson thus far in the early going. 

No wonder why he's soaking up everything possible before the start of training camp. 

"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,'" Rivera said of Dotson. "And he seems to adjust to it very well and accepted that very nicely.”