The Redskins have been waiting for a game like this from DeSean Jackson all year.
The speedy wide receiver has been providing flashes of the player to whom they are paying $9.25 million. He caught a 63-yard touchdown pass against the Giants, a TD from 56 yards in Carolina, and another scoring pass against the Cowboys from 28 yards out. He had also caught non-scoring passes for 42 yards against the Saints and 29 against the Bears.
But he had not yet had a complete game in the first 13 games. Jackson had no more than 87 yards in any one game. The Redskins need him to have impact throughout the game.
He did on Sunday. Jackson came into the game with just six receptions of 20 yards or more. On Sunday, he got three of them capped by the 77-yard catch and run of Kirk Cousins’ pass that essentially put the game away by making the score 28-3 in the third quarter.
Jackson finished the game with six receptions for 153 yards. He said felt like he had felt like he was in the flow of the offense for the last several games but that things just weren’t clicking between him and quarterback Kirk Cousins.
“You know with Kirk, he’s a young quarterback,” said Jackson. “This is his first full year of him being a starter in this league, so he has a lot that he’s trying to accomplish and he has a lot coming at him. Defenses are showing different looks and all that. I think the more and more we play together and the more snaps we take together, I think we’ll see more days like this.”
That all sounds good but Jackson had some pretty good games with Cousins under center last year. In the four games that Cousins started and finished last year Jackson had at least 115 yards receiving in three of them. The two connected on touchdown passes of 81, 60, and 64 yards during that stretch of games.
Even though Cousins, who was replacing an injured Robert Griffin III, had spent limited time with the front-line receivers in training camp and virtually no time at all with them once the regular practice cycle started up, he and Cousins seemed to be on the same wavelength. It’s unclear why there should be a learning curve to catch up in 2015. But the important thing now is that the Redskins got the big game from Jackson right when they needed it the most.
It appears that Jackson was helping Cousins play better even while he wasn’t catching a ton of passes. In the first seven games this year with Jackson playing just 13 snaps, Cousins averaged 6.6 yards per pass attempt. Since Jackson’s return in the eighth game of the season he has been averaging 8.8 yards per attempt.
Certainly passes to Jackson have been part of the boost in Cousins’ performance in this key metric. There have been 41 passes targeted for Jackson and the average has been a stellar 11.9 yards per attempt. But another 173 passes have been thrown to receivers other than Jackson and Cousins has averaged 8.1 yards per attempt on those throws. That compares quite favorably to the league average of 7.1 yards per attempt.
Can Jackson and Cousins keep it up? Certainly the Redskins hope so. There is plenty of motivation with the possibility of clinching the division title by winning the game Saturday night in Philadelphia.
Did someone say Philly? Of course, that was Jackson’s NFL home for six seasons before Chip Kelly unceremoniously dumped him in April of 2014. Jackson wants to be careful no to make it about himself.
“Inside, I definitely will be going crazy in my mind, but I don’t want to make it a bigger game than what it already is,” he said to reporters after the game.
But he couldn’t hide his enthusiasm as he wrapped things up from the podium at FedEx Field.
“Can't get any better than going back to Philly, Saturday night football,” he said.
“Let's get it!”
If he can repeat Sunday’s performance on Saturday the Redskins will have a pretty good shot at doing just that.