Redskins

Redskins

The question wasn't meant to be funny, but Montae Nicholson laughed hard at it anyway. 

After the Redskins practiced on Wednesday, Nicholson was asked if Eagles wideout DeSean Jackson still has his world-class speed. Jackson, of course, will line up against the Burgundy and Gold this Sunday in the 2019 opener.

Once he collected himself, Nicholson answered affirmatively.

"He's definitely got the wheels," he said. "And I know they're going to have him put them to use."

After playing for Washington from 2014 to 2016 and then suiting up for Tampa Bay from 2017 to 2018, Jackson is back in Philadelphia. The franchise who drafted him is more than happy to see him return, too.

"He brings an element that we've missed at least since I've been here in the last three years," Eagles coach Doug Pederson said Wednesday. "I think he still has great burst and quickness."

Even at 32 years old, Jackson instills a fear in opposing defenses that few players in the NFL do. He's coming off a campaign in which he averaged nearly 19 yards per grab, and while he hasn't posted more than 60 catches since 2013, it doesn't really matter.

One Jackson highlight is all it takes to flip a contest. You can shut him out for 99 percent of his snaps, but then that other play is the dagger where he flies down the middle of the field for a 60-yard score. 

In 2018, though, the Redskins did a solid job keeping Jackson relatively quiet in their victory over the Bucs. Jackson finished the afternoon with five receptions for 67 yards, a nice stat line but far from explosive.

 

Jay Gruden thinks that success and the strategies they employed then could help them again in Week 1, and he wants his defenders to be aware of Jackson's presence on the field. Always.

"One of our goals on defense is to eliminate the big plays," Gruden said at his presser. "We [have to] know where DeSean is, he's fast, and he's very talented."

Nicholson agreed with his coach, and added that the extreme comfort he already feels playing alongside fellow safety Landon Collins will make that immensely difficult job a little more doable. Nicholson also made sure to point out that the Eagles have plenty of other weapons, from Zach Ertz to Alshon Jeffery.

Jackson, however, requires special attention. That's why, when the defense gets positioned before each play, they'll need to identify a few things: where the ball is being snapped from, where the first down marker is and where No. 10 is setting up.

And if they don't check that last box, then they'll likely know where to look next: Behind them, in the end zone.

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