The coaches told the quarterbacks to throw the ball to DeSean Jackson even if he was covered. By the time the throw came down, the coaches knew he’d probably separate or track the ball for a long catch.
Despite the quarterbacks having to learn this lesson, Jackson still was productive for the Washington Redskins in his first season. He was a feared target because of his penchant for catches of 40 yards or more. He grabbed an NFL-best 13 -- nobody else had more than eight.
“I think we just scratched the surface, obviously,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said at the owners meetings. “I think the quarterbacks getting to know him was the big thing. This guy really is fast and maybe I should give this guy more opportunities.”
However, Gruden also doesn’t want to force the ball to one player. They want Pierre Garcon to have more opportunities after he went from 113 catches to 68, without a drop-off in ability. But the Redskins also have tight end Jordan Reed if he can stay healthy and Andre Roberts. Plus, if they feature the run game more, that takes away more opportunities. It will help if one quarterback holds onto the job all season, giving him a chance to gain more rhythm and trust with Jackson and the others.
Still, having other targets the coaches like could result in similar numbers for Jackson next season but perhaps not more. Of course, those numbers were rather strong: 59 catches for 1,169 yards and six touchdowns. The latter could be improved, but the middle one matters a lot. It speaks to his downfield talent, giving the Redskins someone who threatens a defense whenever he’s on the field.
“But the most important thing with an offense is being able to spread the ball around and get everybody involved,” Gruden said. “It’ll benefit everybody. His fantasy numbers might not be where everybody expects it to be, but I think from production, as an offense will be up.”
The Redskins certainly could use more help -- and more players to produce like Jackson. In the past, his big plays usually meant wins: From 2010-13, the Eagles were 16-4 when he scored a touchdown and 9-4 when he surpassed 100 yards. Last year, the Redskins were 0-6 when he scored and 2-5 when he went over 100.
The lesson is simple: Jackson produces, but he needs more help. The Redskins hope to provide more this season.