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Can Redskins Wide Receiver DeSean Jackson be More Than a Deep Threat?

by Brian McNally
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RICHMOND, Va. (CBSDC) – DeSean Jackson is a freak. Watch him on television and his pure speed is obvious as he burns past opposing corners. Remember that Monday Night Football disaster at FedEx Field in 2010 when Jackson caught an 88-yard touchdown pass on the first play from scrimmage as the Eagles crushed Washington 59-28?

But a view from ground level a few feet away at training camp shows just how quick the Redskins’ new wide receiver really is. That’s the type of weapon Washington hasn’t had in recent years, if ever. It has one now.

“He’s a guy that can scare defensive backs,” quarterback Robert Griffin III said. “A lot of the underneath routes are sometimes overlooked with a guy like DeSean because he is so dynamic down the field. But he gets a lot of separation and that helps you as a quarterback to have that threat.”

“But he’s not just a guy that we’re gonna send on deep routes all the time. He’s a guy that we’re gonna use everywhere. And the great thing about him is he can do all of that stuff. It’s just overlooked because all you see is punt returns and fades.”

The duo looked a little better at practice on Friday after a shaky start the day before in rainy weather. Griffin overthrew Jackson on a pass and allowed cornerback David Amerson to knock a ball down. Jackson later dropped one after burning a corner on a deep route.

It’s back to a version of the West Coast offense for Jackson, who played in a similar system under Andy Reid in Philadelphia. That changed with Chip Kelly taking over the Eagles last season. They cut him in March due to perceived character issues and conflicts with management and the Redskins picked up a deep threat they hadn’t expected to be available. But he can be more than that, too. He has to be. One dimensional threats don’t work in the modern NFL.

“You can’t always just drop back and heave it long with a guy like DeSean,” Griffin said. “Defenses are gonna be ready for that type of stuff. So really we’re working on making sure our timing is down on all the underneath routes. The deep routes will come. And I’ll be able to throw the deep ball, he’ll be able to catch the deep ball. But I feel like we’re really far into the process of [getting] that chemistry.”

Jackson is looking forward to being part of an offense with Pierre Garcon (113 receptions) and Andre Roberts, a free agent signing from Arizona (43 receptions). Add in tight end Jordan Reed (45 receptions, nine games) and it’s a unit with a high ceiling. The issue for Griffin is how to spread the ball around and keep everyone happy.

“I’m sure that’s the question everyone will want to know,” Jackson said. “Honestly, me and Andre [Roberts] were just talking about it earlier. It’s very dangerous and it’s very scary. I’d rather be on the team that has all the weapons.”

“It just makes it easier for Robert. Actually, me and Andre were saying every play somebody has to be open. With me, [Santana Moss], Pierre, [Reed], Roberts, it’s so many options – [running back] Alfred Morris. Regardless of how you play it, somebody’s going to have to keep an eye on RGIII, because if not, he’s going to run. If somebody doesn’t get double teamed, another receiver is going to be open.”

But Jackson and Griffin still need time to get on the same page. That’s not something that happens in the offseason, when players’ time together is limited and nowhere near game speed anyway. Or even training camp, especially one where new systems and terminology are being put in place. Redskins coach Jay Gruden said the team put in “50 or 60” plays on Thursday night and will probably add another “35 or 40” on Friday. There’s still plenty to learn even before executing it all on the field.

“We’re just starting the process right now, figuring out what these players are good at, what they like – who likes to line up inside, outside,” Gruden said.”And get a good comfort zone for these players running these routes from different locations. Some guys don’t like to be inside, so we’ll figure out who those guys are and what they’re good at and try to feature them the best way we can.”

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