NFL Wire News

Redskins’ Jackson comes up big against former team

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ASHBURN, Va. — Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden and receiver DeSean Jackson have a hard time disguising their moods.

As Washington prepared last week for its NFC East rematch with the Philadelphia Eagles, the team that shockingly cut Jackson in March after his third Pro Bowl appearance in six seasons, Gruden goaded his banged-up, slumping big-play threat who was still leading the NFL with 19.1 yards per catch.

“The last couple weeks (DeSean’s) been dealing with an injury and he hasn’t been quite the same,” Gruden said of Jackson, who had just three catches for 15 yards in the Week 15 loss at the New York Giants after missing Week 14 with a badly bruised right shin. “I’m a ‘what-have-you-done-for-me-lately’ kind of guy, and lately we haven’t seen the DeSean we need to see.”

This from the coach who after Jackson had nine catches of at least 40 yards in Weeks 3-9 raved, “The guy gets downfield and can adjust to the ball like nobody else. What we’ve seen is what we’ve gotten: a dynamic playmaker. That’s why as soon as he came available, we went after him full throttle.”

Jackson, who was pumped for the Week 3 matchup in Philadelphia in which he caught an 81-yard touchdown, said publicly last week that he didn’t really care about the Eagles anymore.

It was a different story in the locker room before Saturday’s game, though.

“D-Jack gave us a speech that they’re kind of laughing (at us),” Redskins fullback Darrel Young said. “They knew they won the game before (37-34). You don’t need extra motivation to play, but if … people don’t respect you, you know?”

A motivated Jackson caught four passes for 126 yards, including grabs of 51 and 55 yards that set up touchdowns, as the Redskins ended a seven-game skid and dealt a fatal blow to the playoff hopes of the faltering Eagles.

“D-Jack brings a big spark,” said embattled Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III, who hadn’t won a game from start to finish in 10 tries dating to Week 10 of 2013. “He can make some plays that no one else can.”

Jackson’s two long bombs from Griffin came when the receiver was left in single coverage against cornerback Bradley Fletcher.

“They’re very naïve, and they play how they play, so they care less who’s at wide receiver,” said Jackson, who joined Hall of Famer Bobby Mitchell, Henry Ellard, Laveranues Coles and teammate Santana Moss as the only Redskins with 1,000 receiving yards in their first Washington season. “Things didn’t go the way we wanted it to go this year, but … I’m happy to be here in Washington.”

Griffin helped convince Jackson, perhaps the NFL’s top big-play receiver while in Philadelphia, to sign a three-year, $24 million contract with Washington five days after his uneven relationship with Eagles coach Chip Kelly prompted his release despite a career year with 82 catches, 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns at age 27.

When Griffin was struggling in early November, the usually media-shy Jackson decided to go public with his support, saying, “I’ve been through a lot, and I understand how things can be portrayed. I wanted to stand up and let (Robert) know I’m supporting him, and hopefully everyone else can support (him), too. (I told Robert), ‘You have people around you to help you. Don’t feel like you have to put everything on your own shoulders.'”

However, a week later, after Griffin’s poor performance in a home loss to lowly the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the moody, grumpy Jackson whom the Eagles dispatched seemed to rip the quarterback on Instagram, writing, “You can’t do epic (expletive) with basic people,” apparently in response to Griffin’s postgame comment that a quarterback can’t win if his teammates don’t play well.

All was forgiven on Saturday as Jackson mocked the Eagles by swooping off the field and into the locker room like a bird with outstretched wings.

“Guys in that locker room have a lot of passion for this game, and every time you suit up, it’s an opportunity,” Griffin said. “That’s the way you have to view it, no matter what your record is. I can tell it meant a lot to a lot of guys in that locker room to get this win, obviously, D-Jack being the happiest of us all.”

And Gruden was happy with Jackson, who raised his season totals to 54 catches, 1,083 yards, a 20.1-yard average and five touchdowns after being healthy again against his old team.

“He’s been great,” the coach said. “I’ve gained a lot of respect for DeSean. Whatever happened in the past in Philadelphia, I don’t know, but since he’s been a Washington Redskin, he’s been solid to be around. He’s been a good worker. We’ve had the revolving door at quarterback which hurt some of the receiver production from time to time, but he’s a big-time threat. I’m very happy that we got DeSean. He’s a huge play waiting to happen.”

REPORT CARD VS. EAGLES

–PASSING OFFENSE: C — Robert Griffin III previously had much more electrifying games, but the quarterback did display fine touch on the completions of 51 and 55 yards to WR DeSean Jackson that set up touchdowns. He also made a smart choice on his short pass to Pierre Garcon that the receiver turned into a 23-yard gain to jump-start Washington’s game-winning drive. Griffin completed 13 of his other 20 attempts but for just 91 yards as he continues to take baby steps in becoming a passer not an athlete. Third WR Andre Roberts couldn’t hold a nicely thrown deep ball from Griffin on third-and-19, but he did snag a 14-yard catch that put the Redskins in the red zone before Kai Forbath’s field goal that opened the scoring. The blockers, who had been like a sieve in recent weeks, allowed two sacks in 25 drop-backs. One came against LT Trent Williams, who was basically playing one-armed since he came in with a badly strained right shoulder, an injury that worsened during the game. Jordan Reed’s two catches for just 5 yards gave the usually more productive tight end eight receptions for only 43 yards the last three weeks.

–RUSHING OFFENSE: C — Alfred Morris gained 7 yards on his first carry but just 2 more on his next four attempts before he motored down the Washington sideline for the 28-yard touchdown just before the end of the first quarter. Morris also carried four times for 12 yards after Garcon’s big catch to put Forbath in position for the game-winning 26-yard kick. FB Darrel Young produced a pair of 1-yard touchdown runs. Griffin gained just 11 yards on five scrambles. The blocking was OK, especially considering that at times, RT Tom Compton was at left tackle and RG Chris Chester was at center because Williams and Kory Lichtensteiger (stinger) were hurt, forcing Tyler Polumbus and rookie Spencer Long into the action.

–PASS DEFENSE: D — Mark Sanchez isn’t going to be enshrined in Canton, but he completed 37 of 50 attempts for 374 yards and two touchdowns against Washington’s beleaguered pass defense before rookie CB Bashaud Breeland beat Eagles WR Jeremy Maclin to the quarterback’s last non-Hail Mary throw for the interception that set up Forbath’s game-winner. The Redskins had no answers for Eagles TE Zach Ertz, who set a Philadelphia record with 15 catches (for 115 yards). CBs David Amerson and E.J. Biggers were each beaten for touchdowns by WR Riley Cooper, while Maclin and Jordan Matthews each had grabs of at least 22 yards. RBs LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles left Washington defenders grasping at air on 18-yard catch-and-runs. Ryan Kerrigan raised his career-high sacks total to 13.5, while fellow linebackers Jackson Jeffcoat and Trevardo Williams, pressed into service because of injuries to Keenan Robinson, Gabe Miller, and against the Eagles, Trent Murphy, each recorded his first.

–RUSH DEFENSE: C — McCoy and Sproles dipsy-doodled their way to 112 yards and a touchdown (by the former) on 26 carries, and the usually slow Sanchez ran five times for 22 yards. However, S Ryan Clark rose up with 15 tackles, the same number credited to LB Will Compton, filling in for the ailing Robinson. Clark and Compton each left the game briefly when shaken up, as did reserve DE Kedric Golston and Breeland. ILB Perry Riley was credited with a dozen tackles. Phillip Thomas, starting for injured S Brandon Meriweather, was effective against the run. RDE Stephen Bowen stopped McCoy cold on third-and-1, forcing a field-goal try that missed.

–SPECIAL TEAMS: A-minus — Forbath hit field-goal tries of 25 and 26 yards, the latter the game-winner that improved him to 23-for-26 this year. Only three of his five deep kickoffs were touchbacks, but Washington’s coverage team fared well on kickoffs and punts, the latter against the dangerous Sproles. However, Forbath’s squib attempt with five seconds left was corralled by Philadelphia at midfield, allowing the Eagles a Hail Mary that failed. P Tress Way had another excellent day, averaging 44.3 yards gross and 41 net while placing all three of his punts inside the 20. Roberts didn’t return either of the two balls punted his way, but he did have a 42-yard kickoff return after three poor ones.

–COACHING: A-minus — The Redskins clinched last place in the NFC East with the previous week’s loss at the Giants, their seventh straight. Seemingly half the crowd at FedEx Field was wearing Eagles green. Philadelphia needed the game to stay in the playoff race. Washington lost three more defensive starters — Hatcher, Robinson and Meriweather — to possible season-ending injuries. And yet, first-year coach Jay Gruden and his staff kept things together even when the Eagles twice grabbed leads, and Washington tied the game after trailing 24-14 early in the fourth quarter, then pulled off the 27-24 upset. Gruden, the play-caller, stuck with the run for a change. Ben Kotwica’s special teams units got the job done, and coordinator Jim Haslett’s struggling defense forced the critical turnover with 91 seconds remaining.


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