“The first thing was really the frustration on his face because he knows he’s better than that,” Rivera said. “You could tell, but then you could see him working more — before practice, after practice, just talking and spending time with (wide receivers coach) Bobby Engram and just listening to them go through things and just to understand that it’s just a little more work here, a little more work there. Sometimes it happens. Sometimes men go through crises, but the best way to get through it is just to get through it. go out. That’s what he did.
In the third quarter of the Commanders’ Week 4 loss at Philadelphia, Dotson beat his defender on a crossover route on third-and-4. But he failed to grab the ball as it passed through his hands, wasting a Washington drive and setting up an Eagles go-ahead touchdown.
Then, early in Week 6 against the Falcons, Dotson ran a deep cross and beat his man again for a potential big play, but he bounced the ball as he went out of bounds. It was his only goal of the match.
And a week later, on a fourth-and-5 play with about a minute left against the Giants, Dotson ran a shallow crossing route for what could have been at least a first down if not a tying score. Instead, the ball bounced off his chest to seal an ugly defeat for the commander.
“Most receivers won’t really say it, but you get a few drops of it, it’s not in your head, but you think about it,” receiver Terry McLaurin said. “It’s like you’re a little more tense to go catch the ball and say, ‘Oh, that’s what I’m doing.’ »
Such drastic times required unusual measures for Dotson, including watching his own varsity video during team meetings.
Dotson, who finished his Penn State career tied for second in program history in career catches and touchdowns, contacted a former teammate still with the Nittany Lions to gain access to tapes of his old games. He also scoured YouTube for some of his old highlights.
“Whenever I go through tough times or things aren’t going well, I kind of go back to when I was successful and really focus on the details that I was doing to make sure I had this success,” he said Thursday. “I would go back and watch college film, seeing how some of my creativity played out and the different types of routes I would run and the creativity I would use just to open myself up.”
Dotson’s thinking was simple: “You see yourself playing, it manifests,” he said.
Looking at him was one thing. Working on it was the next step. In recent weeks, Dotson began coming to the team’s facility on Tuesdays, when players are usually off. With the help of assistants, he spent a lot of time on the JUGS throwing machines, which he also uses regularly after training, about 10 minutes a day.
The results were visible in his last two matches. Dotson had a career-high 108 receiving yards in Washington’s Week 8 loss to the Eagles, then had two big catches in their Week 9 win at New England, including a touchdown catch of 33-yarder that tied the score in the third quarter.
“I think he’s really back to basics,” McLaurin added. “…I was just trying to encourage him to continue to trust his technique and also train his eyes to catch the ball. I think a lot of receivers, myself included sometimes, you let go of the ball, yes, because of your hand placement but also because you’re trying to move or you’re not completely following the ball with your eyes. He has incredible hands, and I think it was just going back to his fundamentals, really the details of catching the football. And then you are more comfortable.
Dotson and McLaurin credited Engram with creating training drills that work on skills that players have struggled with in games or need to perfect.
But Dotson also knows himself and how to keep a small problem from escalating.
Last season, Dotson dropped a deep pass on Washington’s first drive and immediately went to the sideline and begged then-wide receivers coach Drew Terrell to give him the ball soon to get rid of the taste.
“I feel like that’s usually what I need to get back on track,” he said. “I had a pretty solid match after that.”
It wasn’t until the second quarter that Dotson was targeted again, but he made sure the ball didn’t slip through his hands. An 11-yard catch was followed by a 25-yard catch and, ultimately, a touchdown. If penalties hadn’t negated another 39-yard catch, Dotson would have topped 100 yards in the game.
“For me, it’s weird because when I make a mistake or something like that, I’m the type of person who immediately wants to have the ball in my hands,” he said. “It’s really difficult when, like in the Atlanta game (this season), that was my only goal of the game. I felt this one a lot.
His recent turnaround has been much improved.
“It feels really good to get back to doing what I know I can do and that is making plays for this team because I feel like when I play, our team has a better performance. opportunity to win football games,” Dotson said. “It was just about getting back to basics, really honing in on the details and making sure I stayed on top of my stuff.”
And if that meant sacrificing a few minutes of meetings, Rivera and Bieniemy would surely understand.