With a new head coach, some intriguing free agents and a quarterback on the comeback trail, the 2014 Redskins are loaded with storylines. Between now and the start of training camp, Redskins Insiders Rich Tandler and Tarik El-Bashir will be examining the top 30 questions the Redskins face as they get ready for the season.
Can DeSean Jackson match his Philly production?
In 2013, Jackson set career highs in receptions (82), yards (1,332), first downs gained (60) and matched his high in touchdowns (9) as a member of the Eagles. It marked the third time Jackson surpassed the 1,000-yard plateau and he earned a third Pro Bowl berth as a result. It’s also important, though, to point out that Jackson was Philly’s undisputed No. 1 wide receiver last season. He was targeted 126 times, or 42 times more than Riley Cooper and 61 times more than LeSean McCoy. In Washington, Jay Gruden is expected to spread the ball more evenly among a deep and talented pass-catching corps that boasts Pierre Garçon, another wide receiver capable of Pro Bowl level production. Which begs the question: can Jackson approach the numbers he put up in Philly?
El-Bashir: At 27, Jackson is in the prime of his career. And, with the exception of the minor hamstring strain he suffered this offseason, he’s healthy. He also figures to be motivated after his “humbling” release by the Eagles. But … I think it’s going to be tough for him to match his output from last season. He might even find it tough to crack the 1,000-yard threshold for a couple of reasons: No. 1, he’s sharing the stage with Garçon, Roberts and Reed and No. 2, Robert Griffin III has already developed gameday-tested chemistry with Garçon and Reed. The Redskins invested heavily in playmakers to surround Griffin and, as a result, the strength of Jay Gruden’s offense figures to be its ability to lean on one playmaker when a defense focuses on taking away another. I still expect one Redskins’ receiver will get to 1,000 yards this season. But I’m not confident enough—yet—to say it will be Jackson. (Interestingly, there were only two pairs of 1,000-yard receivers on the same team in 2013—Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker of the Broncos and Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall of the Bears).
Tandler: I don’t think that the Redskins are necessarily looking for Jackson to match his 2013 catches and yards. There are a couple of numbers that will be used as a gauge for his success. One is his career average of 17.2 yards per catch. The Redskins have not had a player with at least 50 receptions who averaged more than 17 yards per catch since Santana Moss did it in 2005. That is the dimension that the team is looking for. The other number they would like to see him match or exceed is his 2013 total of 25 receptions for 20 yards are more. Whether it’s by getting open deep or by snagging a pass in stride on a crossing pattern, they want him to eat up big chunks of yards on a regular basis. So while he has the ability to catch 80+ passes for 1,300 yards, he probably won’t. With Garçon on the other side and Jordan Reed roaming in the middle, he won’t need to. The goal will be to make his touches count in a big way.