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With Jackson out, Redskins will need to rely on Garçon

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With Jackson out, Redskins will need to rely on Garçon

One of the questions floating around Redskins Park this week is how the Redskins are going to move the ball with DeSean Jackson sidelined with a hamstring injury. Who will replace Jackson? How will they get any offense going without a receiver who can stretch the field?

The short answers are that nobody can take Jackson’s place and the offense will have to figure out how to move the chains the same way the vast majority of the teams in the league do. Very few NFL teams have a receiver with Jackson’s sheer speed and ability to run under almost anything a quarterback throws up there.

The Redskins didn’t have one in 2013. Jackson was an Eagle that year. The Redskins relied on Pierre Garçon to move the football through the air. Quarterbacks Robert Griffin III and Kirk Cousins targeted Garçon a league leading 181 times. They attempted a combined 611 passes so nearly one in every three throws was in Garçon’s direction.

And the receiver came through with 113 receptions, a total that both led the league and set a team record for catches in a single season. The Redskins did not have a top-notch offense doing things this way but they did rank ninth in total yards and the Garçon-centric passing attack kept defenses honest enough to for the team to rank fifth in rushing yards. It was a miserable 3-13 seasons but a shaky defense, awful special teams, and general team dysfunction contributed more to the mess than the offense did.

There is no reason why this plan can’t work again during Jackson’s temporary absence. With Jackson missing all but a few snaps of the Dolphins game, Garçon was targeted eight times, catching six. Four catches were good for first downs and a fifth reception that should have resulted in a first down was nullified by a highly questionable offensive pass interference penalty.

During the offseason Scot McCloughan and Jay Gruden talked a lot about wanting to transform the Redskins into a team known for its toughness. You can check that box next to Garçon’s name.

“You preach tough football players and when your wide receiver is one of the toughest players on your football team, it sends a good signal to everybody,” said Gruden. “He’s a guy that’ll block. He’s a guy that’ll go over-the-middle, be fearless and run after the catch. Every part of Pierre’s game is what you’re looking for in a wide receiver — his toughness, his willingness to do the little things to make the team better.”

The Redskins will send Jamison Crowder and perhaps Rashad Ross on some deep patterns against the Rams tomorrow and for as long as Jackson is sidelined. But it is doubtful that many big plays will happen as a result. If the Redskins are going to move the ball against St. Louis they will do it running the ball (Seattle rushed for 125 yards against them) with Garçon providing blocking on the edge and by targeting Garçon at least a dozen times passing.

Gruden is on board with such a plan.

“I’m all about trying to get him involved in this offense, no question about it,” he said. “You’d love to run the ball, run the ball, but it’s also important to get him involved because he is a game changer if we can get him the quality touches like we did last year.”

Certainly a game plan like this would work better with someone like Jackson in the mix. The ability to score from long distance rather than needing to put together an extended drive certainly helps. But the Redskins will have to play with the hand they were dealt and there is no reason why it can’t be effective given that it has worked in the past.

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Need to Know: Washington Redskins free agency needs—Offense

Need to Know: Washington Redskins free agency needs—Offense

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, February 23, 14 days before the March 9 start of NFL free agency.  

Timeline

Days until:

—NFL Franchise tag deadline (3/1) 6
—NFL Combine (3/2) 7
—Redskins offseason workouts start (4/17) 53
—NFL Draft (4/27) 63
—First Sunday of 2017 season (9/10) 199

Free agent moves—Offense

Free agency starts two weeks from today. The Redskins have plenty of needs, both big and small. Let’s take a look around and see what offensive positions they might be looking to bolster when things get going. I’ll follow up with the defense in the next few days.

Quarterback—It could be a yawner at this position or there could be plenty of drama. If Kirk Cousins gets franchise tagged or defies current expectations and signs a long-term deal, the depth chart will remain the same. If he is gone via a trade, things could be shaken up. While they may draft a QB in late April they could go for a mid-priced veteran as insurance.

RELATED: NFL Mock Draft Version 3.0

Running back—The Redskins have a depth chart loaded with young, unproven talent at this position. If they want a veteran presence in the meeting room they could look at someone like Robert Turbin (McCloughan had a hand in drafting him in Seattle in 2012) or maybe Knile Davis.

Wide receiver—Things will get very interesting if the word on the street comes to pass and both Pierre Garçon and DeSean Jackson are gone. They have a presumably healthy Josh Doctson in line to replace one but they would need a veteran. Maybe Kenny Stills or Kenny Britt, both young and productive, could be under consideration. If one of the veterans stays they likely will get depth in the draft.

More Redskins: #RedskinsTalk podcast: Is Kirk too nice for his own good?

Tight end—Vernon Davis seems likely to be back. If he’s not, the Redskins probably would rather have an alternative to Niles Paul as Jordan Reed’s primary backup. The probably won’t swim in the deep end of the pool with Martellus Bennett and Jared Cook. But maybe they will look at Jermaine Gresham, who made the Pro Bowl twice in Cincinnati while Jay Gruden was the Bengals’ offensive coordinator.

Offensive line—Yesterday, JP and I discussed what they might do at left guard if they want to upgrade from Shawn Lauvao. Perhaps they could go for Kevin Zeitler, another Bengal who played under Gruden. But he will command a contract in the $8-$10 million range and with Brandon Scherff coming up for an extension next year that might be too much to spend at the guard position. Look for the Redskins to take an eventual Lauvao replacement in the draft.

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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.

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If Redskins trade Kirk Cousins to 49ers, 5 prospects to consider with No. 2 pick

If Redskins trade Kirk Cousins to 49ers, 5 prospects to consider with No. 2 pick

It still seems like a long-shot the Redskins trade Kirk Cousins, but if there is one persistent rumor, it's that the San Francisco 49ers want the Washington passer. The story is too familiar at this point: New Niners coach Kyle Shanahan was in D.C. when Cousins was drafted and wants the quarterback to come run his offense in San Francisco. With the second overall pick, the 49ers have a tremendous asset they can dangle in trade talks.

<<<CLICK HERE TO SEE 5 PROSPECTS FOR THE REDSKINS AT NO. 2 PICK>>>

Whether or not any of this rumor is true, it sure makes for engrossing speculation. With the NFL Draft Combine next week in Indianapolis, NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah said he wouldn't be shocked to see the trade go down.

That's the backdrop. Beyond the debate of the merits of trading an established QB like Cousins, which is a very serious debate, there's also the notion of what player the 'Skins would select with the second overall pick.  

MORE REDSKINS: 2017 top heavy Cap could be a problem

It's worth examining the impact players available to Washington with the second selection in the 2017 NFL Draft, and the options are varied, including perhaps a new QB. Check it out. 

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

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