Just how far Tandon Doss has come since a nightmare of a preseason is pretty amazing. Doss has emerged as one of the Ravens’ steadiest wideouts in recent weeks, but it sure didn’t seem like that would be the case heading into the regular season.
There had been high hopes for the 2011 fourth-round pick, and after trading Anquan Boldin to the 49ers in the offseason, the time had come for Doss to arrive.
Instead, Doss’ miscues and lack of production let undrafted rookie Marlon Brown and seventh-round pick Aaron Mellette pass him during training camp. The 24-year-old wasn’t grabbing hold of the opportunity in front of him, and Baltimore made sure he knew it by cutting him on Aug. 31.
Doss worked out for the Packers, but wasn’t signed. When Jacoby Jones sprained his knee in the season opener, another chance landed in Doss’ lap. Since re-signing with Baltimore on Sept. 9, the 6-foot-2 receiver has taken hold.
Doss has 13 catches for 239 yards over the last four games. In contrast, Boldin has just 14 catches for 179 yards over the last four contests for the 49ers.
On top of that, Doss took over as the primary punt returner after Jones got hurt, and ranks second in the NFL with 17.8 yards per return, including an 82-yard touchdown.
It has reached the point that coach John Harbaugh believes it’s safe to say there’s nothing he doesn’t trust Doss to do.
“I take a little credit for that one,” Harbaugh said. “I mean, sometimes I don’t know what shakes a guy into becoming what he’s going to become, and Tandon’s story is going to be a great testimony going forward. But still, I expect him to get better. The sky is the limit for him as a football player, and he’s got a ways to go still, so let’s keep pushing that. Let’s see how good he can still be.”
Doss entered his third NFL season with just seven catches for 123 yards and a touchdown, as well as four punt returns - all of which came in 2012.
Doss has trumped those numbers in his six games this season alone. On offense, he is doing a good job helping to make up for the losses of Boldin and tight end Dennis Pitta. Harbaugh said this is the role the team envisioned he might one day fill.
“As an inside receiver, motion, stack guy, running all the combination routes that he’s doing - that’s what we always hoped to see,” Harbaugh said. “We had him outside more last year because of Anquan and Dennis. I think the idea that he can go inside and fill some of that role was something we were hoping to see, and that’s what he’s doing now.”