Early Doucet takes part in a drill during Wednesday's OTA.
Fitzgerald has already made his NFL reputation, and in many ways, so too has
“I don’t feel any pressure to come in and replace Anquan or be the next Anquan,” Doucet said. “I just want to work hard and do the things Early Doucet needs to do to be a consistent contributor to the team.”
In many ways, this was the spot Doucet had been groomed for, even though it’s not what was envisioned when he was first drafted. While many have long seen Doucet as Boldin’s eventual replacement, it was Bryant Johnson who was leaving when Doucet was picked out of LSU in the third round of the 2007 draft.
Breaston was still seen as only a return man. And Boldin’s public rants against the team because of his contract situation were still a few months away. Once Breaston established himself during the 2008 season as a 1,000-yard receiver – and once the relationship between the team and Boldin began to fray – Doucet’s candidacy as an eventual Boldin replacement came to life.
He had much to learn. Both he and wide receivers coach John McNulty talk about many wideouts needing to get into a third season before maturing. Fitzgerald said while he always had confidence in Doucet’s potential, “he just wasn’t a professional in terms of taking care of his body.”
But Fitzgerald pointed to the two weeks the Cards were off between minicamp and OTAs and noted Doucet was at the team facility every day “working, working, working.” After playing at 212 pounds the last two years, Doucet said he weighs about 205 pounds now, and acknowledges it makes a difference.
Early last season, McNulty said even though Doucet wasn’t dressing for games early in the season, he’d show up at 8 or 9 at night on Tuesdays – the players’ day off – to get a jump-start on the week’s game plan. He was also back earlier than most this offseason, running routes, working out or studying film.
“All those things added up,” McNulty said.
“If I don’t get it by now,” Doucet said, “I don’t think I’m ever going to get it.”
The new drive is a combination of a lot of things, Doucet added. He’s matured. He felt emboldened by his play in the playoffs in Boldin’s absence (Anquan was out with ankle and knee injuries) when he had 14 catches for 145 yards and two touchdowns in two games – nearly bettering all his regular-season totals (17-214-1).
He also understands this is an opportunity with Boldin gone.
“Early’s not going to shy away,” said Fitzgerald of the inevitable Boldin comparisons. “That’s one of the things I love about him.”