John Keim: Yes, DeSean Jackson is having a good camp and part of the reason, coaches and teammates say, is because of Josh Norman’s presence. That’s what good competition does for a player, or should do. It brings out their best and the prevailing notion with the Redskins is that’s exactly what Norman has done for Jackson.
“It sounds cliché,” Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins said, “but that’s the truth of the matter. [Jackson is] a great talent and he’s had a really good camp.”
But there’s another reason, too. Jackson is healthy (I can see/ hear all of you knocking on wood). The last two summers he’s dealt with minor injuries that took a bit longer to return from; you can take from that what you want. This is probably the longest Jackson has practiced in training camp with Washington since signing in 2014.
He looks fresh. He still looks fast and he’s still a dangerous target deep. Really, it’s just a matter of hitting him -- he beat Bashaud Breeland the other day, but Cousins’ pass was about a yard or two long (better that than too short).
“One thing is, he’s been able to practice,” Redskins offensive coordinator Sean McVay said about the difference in Jackson’s camp. “When you bring in guys like Josh, an elite corner, competition raises the level of play and that’s what he’s done. You’re seeing why DeSean is a special player.”
Let me say this, too: It’s not just Jackson. Fellow receiver Pierre Garcon is having a good camp as well. He’s more than a possession receiver but his strength and willingness to get tough yards makes him good in that area. He’s done a good job creating a little extra separation with subtle fakes one way or another, then cutting back the opposite.
For Jackson, though, he’s just providing reminders of what he can do -- in case anyone had forgotten. He said he’s added six pounds of muscle, a nod to the fact that he’ll turn 30 in December. He must now start thinking about lasting a few more years; taking care of his legs will help. But while many players shed a few pounds later in their careers, Jackson went the other way because it can help increase his durability.
Still, that speed. You can see how it impacts corners, too. Most of what Norman has allowed vs. Jackson are underneath routes, passes corners will happily surrender to Jackson in order to prevent a long touchdown. Jackson doesn’t have to run great routes at times the way others must simply because, on comebacks for example, he creates separation with his presence. Corners play off; a hard drive back to the passer becomes an easy catch (especially in one-on-ones where there’s no rush or inside help, etc. Don’t forget that).
The Redskins’ offense is different with Jackson on the field. What his early start does is show that, as long as he’s healthy, he’ll be the same dangerous player he’s been in the past.
“Everything is sharp and crisp,” McVay said. “It’s another year in the system, he knows what we’re looking for in route depths and details and nuances. He’s competing and from a talent standpoint he’s special.”