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Could DeSean Jackson get more involved in Redskins' return game?

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Could DeSean Jackson get more involved in Redskins' return game?

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.

RELATED: DeAngelo Hall listed as a safety on new depth chart

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Need to Know: Tandler’s Take—Dramatic improvement to Redskins rushing defense

Need to Know: Tandler’s Take—Dramatic improvement to Redskins rushing defense

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, October 16, five days before the Washington Redskins host the Dallas Cowboys.

Talking Points

A better 3-2

For the third straight year, the Redskins are 3-2 after five games. As you know, they did not make the playoffs after either of the last two seasons. But they are in better shape in the standings now than they were in 2016 or 2017. Last year they were in second place in the division, a game and a half behind the 5-1 Eagles. They were worse off two years ago as they were in third place behind the 3-1 Eagles and the Cowboys, who were 4-1. 

It’s still very early, but it’s better to be in first place nearly a third of the way into the season than it is to be in second or third place and being in a position where you have to chase one or two teams. 

Take it away

The Redskins had three takeaways against the Panthers—the fumble recovery on the punt, Josh Norman’s interception, and the fumble forced by Norman and recovered by Mason Foster. They did not give the ball away. The last time they got at least three takeaways without giving the ball up was on Christmas Eve, 2016 in Chicago. Perhaps not coincidentally, that is the last game in which Norman had an interception until Sunday. 

After being either even or in the positive in takeaway ratio in four of their five games this year, the Redskins are now tied for fourth in the NFL with a plus-four turnover margin. If they can stay on the even or plus side from week to week they will have a very good chance at being successful. 

Rushing D much improved

After finishing 32nd in the NFL in rushing yards allowed in 2017, the Redskins are currently sixth, giving up an average of 90.2 yards per game. The improvement has come even though they have faced premiere running backs David Johnson, Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram, and Christian McCaffrey. They have allowed no more than 104 yards on the ground in any of their five games. Last year's opponents ran for 127 yards or more 10 times. Their defense will be tested on Sunday against the Cowboys, who average 147 rushing yards per game on the ground, second in the NFL. 

Looking in the mirror

When the Redskins take a look at the Cowboys they might feel like they are watching themselves. Both teams run the ball well, although Ezekiel Elliott is more consistent than Adrian Peterson. Alex Smith has better passing stats than Dak Prescott but both teams are in the bottom third of the league in passing yards. The defenses on both teams are strong. Washington is sixth in yardage allowed per game and the Cowboys are fifth. 

And both teams have started off the season alternating wins and losses. Dallas started with a loss to the Panthers then beat the Giants, lost to the Seahawks, won over the Lions, suffered an OT loss to the Texans and then thumped the Jaguars. It will be an interesting match up on Sunday.

The agenda

Today: Off day, no media availability

Upcoming: Cowboys @ Redskins 5; Redskins @ Giants 12; Redskins @ Eagles 48

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Week 6's Redskins game marked another successful celebration of the THINK-PINK! campaign

Week 6's Redskins game marked another successful celebration of the THINK-PINK! campaign

During the Redskins-Panthers Week 6 matchup, the FedEx Field end zones ditched their usual gold trim for some pink instead. As it turns out, burgundy and pink go quite well together.

The reason for the change was to celebrate the Redskins Breast Cancer Awareness game as well as the 20th anniversary of Tanya Snyder's THINK-PINK! campaign.

Mrs. Snyder started the movement two decades ago by passing out 8,000 handmade pink ribbons at the team's stadium meant to remind people that early detection of breast cancer can make a major difference.

Now, her campaign has gone league-wide and is the reason you see so many players wearing pink in October, fans waving pink towels in the stands and other awareness-raising initiatives throughout the NFL.

"Very, very, very proud," Snyder said while handing out ribbons before the Washington-Carolina game. "We're not finished, but we are making a difference with early detection. So I'm beaming." 

For more information on Snyder and the NFL's breast cancer efforts, head to redskins.com/thinkpink. And for more details about the events held at FedEx Field during Week 6, check out the video above.

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