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Need to Know: Is Jackson's absence from some Redskins OTAs an issue?

Need to Know: Is Jackson's absence from some Redskins OTAs an issue?

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, May 26, 63 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp in Richmond.

Timeline

—The Redskins last played a game 137 days ago. It will be 109 days until they host the Steelers in their 2016 season opener.

Days until: Redskins training camp starts 63; Preseason opener @ Falcons 77; Final roster cut 100

Hot topic—DeSean’s absent (again)

It’s becoming an annual event around Ashburn—sorting out whether or not fans should be upset that DeSean Jackson was absent for part of voluntary OTAs.

Jackson was not present at Wednesday’s OTA session, the first one that was open to the media. According to reports he did not attend on Tuesday either and his attendance at the offseason program, which started last month, has been sporadic.

His absence did not bother the quarterback. “He knows what is best for him and what he needs to get ready for the fall,” said Kirk Cousins.

Jackson not being there did not seem to particularly rattle his head coach either. “He’s been in the league nine years, he knows what he has to do,” said Gruden.

Head coaches need to be very careful about what they say about attendance during the offseason program. As noted, showing up is voluntary and anything a coach said that can perceived as putting pressure on a player to show up can be frowned upon by the players union. So if Gruden is unhappy he probably wouldn’t say much about it.

When the Redskins signed Jackson in 2014 they knew what they were getting. He wasn’t big on showing up at offseason workout when he was with the Eagles and there was no reason to believe that he would change.

But it appears that Jackson would have some legitimate incentive to attend the workouts this year. For one thing there was a pretty strong financial incentive in the form of a $500,000 workout bonus. The past tense is used there because he already has missed too many workouts to be able to qualify for it.

There also is the fact that last year was the worst of his career. He missed six games with a hamstring injury and he had career lows in receptions (30) and receiving yards (528). The injury happened early in the first game of the season after he had spotty attendance at OTAs and was out for most of training camp and all of the preseason games with a shoulder injury.

There is no definitive link between his relatively light workload leading up to the season opener and the hamstring issue. But after the injury last fall he admitted that there may have been. So why take the chance of having another lost season due to injuries? Why not just show up in Ashburn, do the work, collect your $500K and take your vacation from mid-June until training camp starts in late July. That puts more money in your pocket and eliminates a relatively light offseason workload as a possible reason if he does get injured.

There also is the age factor. Jackson will be 30 before the season ends. As players age, they need to work harder and harder in the offseason to be able to stay on the field. He can’t maintain the same work habits he had in his twenties and expect to be a productive player in his thirties.

Jackson knows all of this and he chooses to stay away anyway. That’s fine but the caveat is that he had better be ready for the season and he had better get through it injury free. If things don’t work out then in 2017 he could find himself as a 30-year-old free agent with a reputation for being fragile and not willing to put in the work that might help keep him on the field. The workouts being voluntary wouldn’t matter a whole lot to the people writing the checks and,, fair or not, the reputation would cost him a lot of money.

Maybe the worst-case scenario will not come to pass. Maybe he'll do his thing during the offseason, catch 50 passes for 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns and cash in with another big contract.

Jackson can make whatever choices he wants to. But he should be wary of the potential consequences of his choices.

In case you missed it 

 

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Go home again? Redskins schedule visit with former RB Tim Hightower, per report

Go home again? Redskins schedule visit with former RB Tim Hightower, per report

The Redskins will host Tim Hightower for a visit on Wednesday, ESPN's Mike Triplett reported. Bringing Hightower in at this point represents an impressive story far beyond a mundane free agent visit.  

If his career ended today, Tim Hightower's story would already be remarkable. Hightower - a DMV native that played his college ball at the University of Richmond - played for the Redskins in the 2011 season. That season, he tore his ACL, and was limited to five games.

While torn ACL's happen frequently in the NFL, what happened next for Hightower was anything but ordinary. He missed the next three seasons with an undiagnosed infection, before incredibly returning to the NFL in 2015 with the Saints. 

His last two years in New Orleans, Hightower has been a solid contributor behind starting RB Mark Ingram. He's rushed for more than 900 yards, gained another 330 yards through the air and hit the end zone nine times in 24 games for the Saints. 

In Washington, Hightower would join a backfield of Robert Kelley, Chris Thompson, Mack Brown and Matt Jones. It will be interesting to see if Washington adds any other backs through the draft in April as well. 

Born in Waldorf, Hightower went to high school in Alexandria before playing college ball at Richmond. Playing with the 'Skins in 2011, Hightower quickly became a fan favorite, especially with his local ties. 

The Redskins run game has not been particularly strong for a few seasons, and questions remain if the current stable of runners will be enough to improve. Hightower doesn't necesarily equal a significant talent boost, but perhaps coaches and front office staff are looking at the group.

Be aware, however, this could be nothing more than a visit. Triplett reported it remains possible Hightower returns to the Saints. He also visited the 49ers last week, and new San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan was running the 'Skins offense in 2011 when the team originally acquired Hightower.

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Redskins draft countdown: WR Isaiah Ford could be a mid-round catch

Redskins draft countdown: WR Isaiah Ford could be a mid-round catch

Redskins draft countdown

The NFL draft is 36 days away and there is plenty of speculation as to what players the Redskins will select to wear the burgundy and gold. Between now and the draft we’ll look at some of the players who might be of interest to the Redskins and discuss how they might fit in Washington.

Isaiah Ford

Wide receiver
Virginia Tech

Height: 6-1
Weight: 194
40-yard dash: 4.61

Projected draft round: 3-4

What they’re saying

Ford looks the part of a speed merchant with a tight-skinned, athletic frame, including long limbs. He glides off the line of scrimmage, accelerating fluidly to force defenders to respect his ability to go deep and shows very good balance to sink his hips, as well as burst out of his breaks to create separation. Ford shows the initial quickness and lateral agility to avoid defenders in press coverage, occasionally mixing in a hesitation move to get opponents off-balance. He is willing to run across the middle and cut back inside on quick screens, showing the toughness to absorb big hits and still hang on to the ball. Ford was asked to play outside as well as in the slot

Rob Rang, CBS Sports

How he fits the Redskins: The top of the Redskins’ depth chart at wide receiver looks good with Josh Doctson, Jamison Crowder and Terrelle Pryor. But depth is a concern, especially with Doctson’s durability a question mark. On top of that, Pryor is there on a one-year contract so there must be some succession planning at the position.

Ford was a very productive receiver at Virginia Tech, the first player in school history to surpass 1,000 yards receiving in a season. He has the knack for making the sensational catch and he isn’t afraid to go across the middle.

At 6-1 he has the height that seems to be the trend on the Redskins’ wide receiver corps lately. Ford could be a good mid-round pick for the team to develop in 2017 and be ready to be a full contributor in 2018.

Film review: vs. Tennessee, vs. Pitt

Ford is not afraid to run slants over the middle and is willing to cut back to the center of the field after catching bubble screens.

His run blocking ranged from unimpressive to bad with the caveat that it’s hard to evaluate on the TV camera angles. This is an area that can be improved with NFL coaching. Adding a few pounds to his 194-lb. frame could help, too. It also sometimes appears that he could use more bulk to help him use his height when fighting for a ball.

The good and the bad of Ford was on display in the span of a few minutes during the Pitt game. He made a spectacular catch on a tipped ball that bounced off of both him and the defensive back (view here) while they were on the ground. Ford had the awareness to scoop the ball off the chest of the defender and secure it to make the catch. A little while later he was in a great position to made a catch for a first down but he bobbled the ball as he was falling out of bounds (view here) and the pass was incomplete.

In the games I reviewed Ford showed a good knack to make back shoulder catches, something the Redskins don’t seem to like to try. But the ability is there if they draft him and want to try it.

Potential issues: Ford looks skinny, almost fragile, at 194 pounds. If he does add weight he needs to do so without losing much speed. He ran a 4.61 in the 40 at the combine. Against college defensive backs he looks fast enough but that will be a different story in the NFL.

Bottom line: The Redskins can’t go into the season with a very green Maurice Harris and a very pedestrian Ryan Grant as their backup wide receivers. They need a player who can provide depth in 2017 and be able to step up to have a legitimate shot at starting in 2018.

There will be several prospects in the third- and fourth- round range who could be the guy. If the Redskins think that Ford can add a few pounds without sacrificing speed and brush up on his run blocking a bit, they could take a serious look at him.

In his own words:

On how the coaching change from Frank Beamer to Justin Fuente helped him:

I think it simplified everything for us. It limited the amount of routes that I ran - slants, outs, fades and posts; my first two years, I was running digs, post curls, comebacks, things like that - that was fine. I'm comfortable doing both. The route-running was never a problem for me because I feel that's what I do best. Being able to play primarily 'X' last year, winning those 50-50 balls and running those routes, it helped me.

Previously in Redskins draft countdown:

Stay up to date on the Redskins! Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.