Just What Does DeSean Jackson Bring to the Redskins Offense?
So with all the Redskins name debate news in the last few weeks, we haven’t been able to devote much time to the new players and philosophy’s the Washington Redskins have added this off-season. In the coming days, we plan on doing just that. Today we are going to start with former Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson.
DeSean Jackson (or D-Jax as he was known in Philly), is coming off his best season as a professional. Jackson pulled in 82 catches for 1332 yards receiving and nine touchdowns while starting all 16 games. Jackson and then first-year Eagles head coach Chip Kelly, reportedly did not get along during last season, although the numbers and overall play from Jackson don’t reflect that. Kelly released Jackson earlier this year citing ‘football reasons‘ even though articles posted in the press said otherwise, Kelly had the following to say after news broke of Jackson’s release.
“We just wanted to go in a different direction. It had nothing to do with any article. Purely football.”
Whatever the reason was for Jackson’s dismissal following the best year of football he has ever played, it’s hard to believe it was for ‘football reasons.’ Much has been said about Jackson’s attitude and work ethic, although not much has been said in a negative manner from teammates about the latter. The whole reason Jackson is not an Eagle anymore is up for debate, what isn’t debatable is what DeSean brings to the Washington Redskins and first-year head coach Jay Gruden.
Anyone who has been watching the Redskins the last few years knows that the team has had its issues with the long ball. The problem the last two years hasn’t been the arm of quarterback Robert Griffin III, but the lack of personnel and perhaps the lack of long ball play-calling from Kyle Shanahan as well (doesn’t help when the receivers they did have dropped many open passes). Pierre Garcon has proven to be an extremely reliable short to mid-range target who can turn small plays into huge gains, but teams have caught on and put double teams on Pierre, slowing him down. The top-notch rushing attack featuring RG3 and Alfred Morris starting seeing a lot of stacked looks last year when it was made clear the Redskins were a team with only one reliable weapon at receiver. Enter DeSean Jackson, who has some of the best cut-moves down the field of anyone in the game today.
What Jackson brings to the Redskins offense is the threat of a huge play on every down. Teams will not be able to double down on Garcon since Jackson will be running routes aimed at taking the tops off of defenses with fly routes and deep patterns.
The info-graph below (courtesy of PFF) shows Jackson’s route chart for 2013.
The fact that defenses will have to be aware of Jackson’s ability will change how teams plan for the Redskins by itself. Many may point out what they have seen or heard about Jackson appearing to not like going across the middle of the field (thus opening himself up to big hits) to catch passes. That may be a valid point if the Redskins were lacking in that department. Those who say that may have forgotten that the team also added Andre Roberts in free agency.
Roberts is a speedy, tough, pass catcher who does his dirty work across the middle, a season ago he was often featured at all three receiver positions in Arizona under Cardinals coach Bruce Arians system. Which goes to show he’s a versatile receiver who’s not scared to play multiple roles. I, like many, was under the impression that Roberts would get some ‘go time’ at the number two receiver spot this year before the team was able to get Jackson, so to say I have faith in Roberts would be a massive understatement. Roberts role may not be the same as once thought, but he relishes the role the Redskins have for him now none the less.
“In Arizona it was a new staff and they didn’t know me. The Redskins brought me here because they want me to make plays on special teams and offense. So it’s a different dynamic.”
You also have to factor in Garcon when looking at what Jackson brings, he also had a career year in 2013 with 113 catches for 1346 yards and five touchdowns. Garcon is a quick receiver who has the knack for catching balls that most receivers in the league can’t. He’s also made a living the last two years running cross patterns of the 5-15 yard variety that often times lead to a huge gain. Garcon’s number one attribute is his ability to gain yards after the catch (YAC), which may, in fact, make him one of the most dangerous receivers in the league.
Another factor to consider when wondering just what does DeSean Jackson bring to the Redskins offense is Jay Gruden’s play-calling ability. Gruden has a brilliant mind for drawing plays up and scheming towards an offense that relies heavily on multiple backs and the passing game. If you look at the picture below you will see that even though Gruden schemed to throw the ball longer than 30+ yards the third most times in the league last season (30). Andy Dalton (not really known for his long ball although he did throw for over 4000 yards and 33 TD’s) didn’t complete but 10 of those balls to receivers. While Nick Foles attempted 23 and was successful, 11 times (all but one to Jackson) and RGIII only attempted 19, completing 4 of them.
What exactly does that mean? Well, in theory, that means if you add Jackson’s long ball skills/extreme elusiveness with Garcon’s elite pass-catching skills and mix in Roberts toughness, opposing teams will not be able to crowd the line of scrimmage with eight-man fronts in hopes of stopping the Redskins top-notch rushing attack. Nor will they be able to double team Pierre Garcon the entire game, because if they do Jackson will be able to either play in one-on-one coverage or be left alone.
Having multiple speedy options at receiver will make defenses ‘pick their poison’, so to speak. Will they attempt to double Jackson, leaving Garcon or Roberts open? Will all the attention the passing game gets open the rushing game up even more? The addition of DeSean Jackson to the Washington Redskins should give first-year head coach Jay Gruden a plethora of options for game planning week-in and week out.
Jackson’s addition should also help Griffin out tremendously. After being ‘all-world’ his first year, Griffin found out last season that defenses in the NFL adapt to things quickly, let’s not forget he was also recovering from an injury that has ended many a football career as well. Many will say that his mechanics need work, which may have been a factor in last season as he wasn’t given a normal off-season to make the normal rookie-to-sophomore transition will rehabbing his knee injuries.
What I’ve noticed with Griffin is he has a deep-ball arm but hasn’t really had much chance to use it the last two years. Often times because the play-calling didn’t give him the opportunity to do so and when it did, the team was plagued with drop passes and some over-throws/under-throws. The addition of Jackson, with his pass catching ability combined with the elusive deep ball cuts he makes down-field, should give Griffin a dynamic weapon who can stretch the playing field while complimenting the other offensive pieces the Redskins already have.
Lastly, the person who stands the most to gain from having DeSean Jackson? Jordan Reed. The youngster was on his way to having the best season ever for a Redskins tight end (still had the best for a rookie) when he suffered a concussion that ended his 2013 season. Reed is easily the biggest target who will take the field for Washington each week, his talent set is unique in the fact that he is more so an extra receiver than he is a tight end. I expect teams to be so into stopping Garcon, Jackson, and Roberts that Reed will often be left open to do what he wants or against out-matched linebackers in the flat.
One can’t speak on Jackson without mentioning questions of his attitude, which quite honestly I haven’t liked from day one. I must admit that I may be biased towards Jackson in this discussion after years of seeing him torch the Redskins and then rub salt in the wounds with celebrations or even taunts…here’s to hoping my opinion on his attitude is wrong or misunderstood. Ever since his release from the Eagles, players have been reluctant to come out and call him a bad locker room guy or a bad teammate at all. As a matter of fact, LeSean McCoy, a former teammate in Philly, came out and said the opposite in an interview after Jackson’s release.
Jackson had the following to say in regards to what type of teammate he is:
“The funniest thing, man: all this stuff like he’s not a locker room player, he don’t get along with his teammates, the people that really know me, they’re like ‘Man where is all this coming from?’ ” Jackson said. “I had teammates texting me and hitting me up, teammates that’s still on the Eagles right now, like ‘What were they talking about you ain’t a team guy, you don’t get along with people in your locker room?’
“Everybody in the locker room loved me, you feel me?” Jackson went on. “I’m gonna put it on the line just how they gonna put it; I’m gonna put it on the line for them too. So it’s like, I know who my real homies are. The real homies stepped up. My boy LeSean McCoy, one of the best running backs in the NFL, he stepped up, he said some real stuff. But in this league bro, a lot of people are scared and afraid to speak up, because they feel like they’re gonna be the next one cut. They feel like they’re gonna be the next one cut. So the ones that really did step up and speak up, I salute all of them.”
In the end, the addition of DeSean Jackson was a no-brainer. The Redskins were able to get the guy they wanted, a game-breaker with flashy speed. They didn’t have to give anything up in return, and his contract is set to where the Redskins can opt out of it within a couple of seasons, if need be, without much backlash. Did I mention they did all of that and still managed to sign Jackson to a deal that pays him less than Philadelphia did?
Fact is with the addition of Jackson, the Redskins have one of the best, if not THE best wide receiver duo in the NFL and the rest of the offense is better because of it.