For a while this season DeSean Jackson wasn’t doing what DeSean Jackson does.
In the first 10 games the veteran speedster had just three catches that were good for 35 yards or longer. His longest catch was a 44-yard touchdown reception against the Giants in Week 3.
There were many reasons posited for Jackson’s lack of long ball production. For one thing, he was not completely healthy. He missed some practices with a variety of injuries including problems with his knee and hamstring. A head contusion forced him out of the Bengals game in London early and then he sat out the following game after the bye week with a shoulder injury.
In addition, the way defenses were covering the Redskins’ receivers didn’t allow Kirk Cousins many opportunities to get the ball to Jackson.
“I just go where my reads take me, and I’d say on those two plays [against New York], my reads took me to him,” Cousins said in mid-October. “You go back and you say based on the coverage and the concept and the way we’re coached to read it out, that’s where the ball needed to go. I think there were times in the previous games where you say my reads took me to him, but we didn’t connect.”
Suddenly, in the last three games, Jackson has been Jackson.
It started on Thanksgiving Day in Dallas when he got several steps on his defender and was wide open for a 69-yard touchdown bomb. He didn’t score in Arizona but his 59-yard reception got the Redskins a first and goal and they scored a touchdown a few plays later. Then in the third quarter on Sunday he tracked down Cousins’ long pass and dashed to the end zone to complete an 80-yard touchdown play.
So what changed? Nothing magical, according to Cousins.
“In a couple of the instances that we have hit him, it’s been dictated by my read,” he said on Wednesday. “I said to you those weeks, ‘I go where my reads take me,’ and I wasn’t lying to you. In those situations my reads took me to him. So when you have the play call against a certain coverage, he gets the football. If you don’t have that, then someone else will. We’re fortunate to get those situations where he can change the game like that on one catch, one play.”
The 80-yard Jackson reception certainly changed that game in an instant. It moved the Redskins from being down by six to being up by one. They would not relinquish that lead despite some scary moments along the remaining 24 minutes of play. If Cousins can dial up Jackson from long distance on Monday night—and against the Panthers’ banged-up secondary it’s certainly a possibility—you have to think that the Redskins will have a pretty good chance of coming out on top.