Redskins veteran DeSean Jackson returned a punt for the first time this season against the Giants—and, on Monday, Coach Jay Gruden said it’s possible the speedster will be called upon in future weeks, as well.
“We’ll see a little bit more of him,” Gruden said. “I think he’s a great punt returner.”
Jackson’s only opportunity Sunday came in the third quarter with the Redskins ahead 17-0 and looking to put the game away. He scooped the ball up off the grass near the Redskins’ 16 yard line and had a little room to his left but ended gaining just two yards before being forced out of bounds.
“He’s not going to do it all the time, but to put him back there when they’re backed up and we have a chance for a good return, I think is a smart thing to do,” Gruden said.
It also might be necessary, at least on occasion. Jamison Cowder has the second most receptions among rookie wide receivers (45) but he hasn’t made an impact as a punt returner. In fact, he ranks 24th in the NFL, averaging just 5.9 yard per attempt.
“Nothing against Crowder, but DeSean is very explosive back there and made some big plays in his career and that’s the only reason behind it,” Gruden said. “But we could see more. It depends on whether or not he wants to do it. But if he wants to do it, then we’ll put him back there.”
Gruden later said that Jackson should consider fielding balls in practice more often and taking a bigger role in special teams meetings if he plans to return punts on a regular basis down the stretch.
Jackson, meantime, said that he returned the punt Sunday at Gruden’s request but would welcome the opportunity to do it regularly.
“Coach Gruden messed with me earlier this week, he was like, ‘Can you return punts still? I think you’re getting old now’,” said Jackson, who turned 29 on Tuesday. “So I was like, ‘Put me back there. You’ll see.’ I was just trying to get something going back there for our team. But definitely, anytime my number is called, I’m going to go back there for sure.”
Jackson ranked among the league’s most dangerous returners from 2008-10, returning four punts for touchdowns during that span. But he hasn’t returned punts in a full-time capacity since the second half of the 2013 season as a member of the Eagles.