Wednesday, April 2, 2014
DeSean Jackson makes Redskins explosive
By John Keim
The red flags around DeSean Jackson can't be ignored, because by all accounts they're real. And I'm not talking about any affiliations, either. Rather, it's his approach that's more troubling, because that could have a negative impact on the Washington Redskins.
But ... if Jackson is fine ... the Redskins' offense will be explosive. They can pair him with veteran receivers Pierre Garcon, Andre Roberts and second-year tight end Jordan Reed. They have a sturdy young running back in Alfred Morris, who has rushed for 2,888 yards in his first two seasons. They also have quarterback Robert Griffin III, who already was excited about next season. Now he must be ecstatic.
The common denominator among their receivers: speed. It's probably the fastest group the Redskins have had in a long time. And Griffin's ability to throw the deep ball sits well with Jackson's penchant for catching them in the past. It's what Jackson does best, and it's why he scares a defense so much.
Griffin might not have a laser arm like Michael Vick -- few do -- but it's a very good arm and it's certainly one that should connect with Jackson down the field. There's also Griffin's ability to extend plays with a group as fast as this one. That too should lead to headaches for opposing defensive coordinators in the week leading up to facing this offense.
DeSean Jackson caught 82 passes for 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns in 2013.
Having Garcon on the other side means teams can't just always focus on one or the other. No doubt defenses will try to force Jackson into underneath routes and try to be physical with him. If they want to play a Cover 2, the Redskins will take seven-man fronts all day with Morris.
As for the wisdom of signing Jackson, my initial take after his release by the Philadelphia Eagles was simple: No, don't do it. They have a first-year head coach in Jay Gruden trying to establish a new culture and are coming off a disastrous ending to 2013 filled with negative stories. The organization has not fared well after such signings in the past. Would it have the infrastructure to maximize a talent such as Jackson, who comes with questions?
Those I've spoken with who have more reservations about Jackson have been front-office types; those who strongly endorse him are coaches. One coach from another team said certain players are worth taking a risk on, and Jackson is one of them.
I do know his talent is such that teams will look the other way because he can do things few others can on the field. His acceleration on deep passes is unmatched. Google "Redskins, LaRon Landry, 88-yard touchdown, 2010" as proof. Jackson causes defenses to worry about him on every play, something that will lead to better opportunities for Garcon & Co.
It's not like Jackson is the perfect player. Durability always will be a concern for a guy who is 5-foot-10, 175 pounds. Of course, he's now entering his seventh season and coming off his most prolific year. But those red flags, again, must be considered. Some of the Redskins' leaders who have met or talked with Jackson say he's not as bad as advertised, that he's driven by his late father and plays with emotion. They'll need to make sure that's harnessed for the good. Safety Ryan Clark's arrival definitely helps the leadership aspect.
The Redskins have taken a risk on players in the past who have not worked out, notably defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth. Running back Clinton Portis had question marks when he arrived -- he wanted his contract re-done -- but was coming off consecutive 1,500-plus yards seasons. He worked out well. Haynesworth did not.
If you don't have a lot of players with Jackson's issues in the locker room -- and I'm talking about guys whose work ethic has been questioned, nothing about purported affiliations -- then you can withstand it, if the leadership is strong. Will Jackson be too high-maintenance? There's no way to know.
For at least the short term, the guess is that Jackson will be fine. Yes, he'll want to prove the Eagles were wrong -- very wrong. If he is indeed maturing, then Jackson will want to show that he's nothing like recent reports. All of that will benefit the Redskins next season. All of that will benefit Jackson, too. The Redskins need this to work after a horrific season; Jackson needs this to work after bad publicity this offseason. This is not a marriage I saw occurring. But it definitely is one of more than just convenience.