Since the beginning of the Robert Griffin III era, I’d contended that a big time receiver would make the difference between the Redskins being a good team and a great team. Well, those aren’t really the options anymore.
The Redskins are, frankly, awful. The team finished their last campaign with a 3-13 record, good enough for the second-worst spot in the NFL. Of course, there’s no first round draft pick to put a silver lining around this horror story of a season thanks to the RGIII trade that, after looking brilliant for a time, again looks ridiculous. But, last year’s offense was not that bad, at least on paper. Captain Robert was recovering from an injury and lacked mobility, which was what made him such a dangerous player during the 2012-2013 season. Alfred Morris was and, for now, is one of the top running backs in the NFL, Pierre Garcon put up a strong season despite the shaky passing situation, and a young group of tight ends showed flashes of brilliance.
What was missing? A stable offensive line, the old RGIII, and a real, dynamic wideout. The first, simply is not happening this year, bar a series of miracles in late round draft picks. Griffin’s form is still a mystery and could compare to anything between 2004 Peyton Manning and 2004 Patrick Ramsey. The one thing that has surely changed is that, in DeSean Jackson, the Redskins have signed a player with the potential to spark an often stagnant offense.
Now, it would be unwise to assume that the addition of a big name would simply make for a better Redskins season. Top athletes seem to have a knack for coming to Washington and underperforming. Anybody remember Adam Archuleta? Or Jason Taylor? Or Albert Haynesworth? Regardless, Jackson’s body of work is impressive. He’s made the Pro Bowl. He’s been an All-Pro. He has averaged over 17 yards per reception over the course of his career. And though, at 5-10, he is undersized for the modern NFL receiver, Jackson’s blistering speed allows him to create separation and grab heaps of yardage after the catch.
Ideally, Jackson would be able to have a great season, becoming a primary target for Griffin and adding to the quarterback’s confidence after last year’s shaky season. Additionally, the former Eagle would draw disproportionate attention from opposing defenses, opening up the field for Garcon, as well as the combined running threat from Griffin and Morris. Having a top ten receiver on the field would make it possible for the rest of the Skins offense to click into place.
But, that would be all too easy. Jackson is a headcase, both on and off the field. He is known for starting touchdown celebrations so early that he accidentally fumbles the ball before the end of a play and getting upset when the ball doesn’t come his way often enough. He also may or may not be gang affiliated.
Let’s look at some of the worst-case scenarios, which in Washington are all very likely.
It’s not beyond belief that it will turn out that there are actually legal troubles with Jackson lurking behind his release from Philadelphia. The Redskins could get little to no production from him before he is removed from the NFL.
More believable is the ego explosion that could come from the combination of Jackson and the mercurial Redskins quarterback. Griffin had significant trouble with both his coach and his team last season. The quarterback’s struggles on the field translated to the transfer of blame to both Mike Shanahan and the rest of his team. This contributed to the deterioration of relations between Griffin and the coaching staff as well as parts of the locker room. If Jackson comes to town and isn’t satisfied with his situation, it is likely that barbs will be thrown in the direction of RGIII, who will probably act in a manner ala Manning v. Vanderjagt. Griffin will have the owner’s backing. Jackson will be taken off the roster, and presumably won’t be playing for Washington while money is still on their books. It seems extreme to assume this scenario, but most quarterback-receiver feuds are one-sided. Donovan McNabb and Tony Romo are not outspoken players, but Terrell Owens managed to create controversy when dealing with them. Putting together the combination of a quarterback and receiver who both have large and volatile egos creates a dangerous and unprecedented situation.
Desean Jackson could very well help the Redskins pull themselves out of the doldrums. But, looking at the past, things will probably just go much worse than we would ever expect.