ASHBURN, Va. — With defensive end Jason Hatcher still sidelined following a knee scope in June and with apologies to feisty strong safety Ryan Clark, wide receiver DeSean Jackson has been the most watched newcomer during the first week of Redskins training camp in Richmond, Va.
During the rainy first practice of camp, quarterback Robert Griffin III missed connecting with the ex-Eagles standout on a couple of deep throws. However, as camp has progressed, Griffin and Jackson, who's much faster than any of the six Redskins who caught more than 20 passes in 2013 (including Josh Morgan, now with Chicago), have gotten on the same page.
"That chemistry's there," Griffin said. "(DeSean)'s a dynamic football player and we look forward to him making dynamic plays."
Jackson set career highs with 82 catches, 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns last season in helping Philadelphia switch places with Washington in the NFC East by soaring from worst to first. However, the often-moody receiver didn't mesh well with Eagles rookie coach Chip Kelly leading to his surprising release in March and him signing a three-year, $24 million contract with the Redskins just four days later.
The regular-season opener is still more than a month away so everything is upbeat, but Griffin and Washington rookie coach Jay Gruden are very pleased to have the 27-year-old deep threat starting opposite the physical Pierre Garcon, who set a franchise record with 113 catches in 2013, a whopping 68 more than any teammate produced.
"He's definitely a force to be reckoned with," Gruden said. "You have to maybe roll over the top of him or play softer coverage and (it) opens up some underneath stuff, it opens up the running game. So having a guy like DeSean is obviously a great benefit. … I think the only negative I would say -- if I had one - is sometimes he looks too cool for school when he runs some routes, but he is running fast. We've just got to keep working with him on his get-offs and making sure all his routes look the same. He's been a fine teammate. He has worked hard. He's very coachable. I think he wants to be here and he wants to do well."
"Coach Gruden, he's a guy that has a lot of jokes with him so you've just got to kind of take that on the run," he said. "I think I have a great idea of all the plays that's in so far. I feel like I'm on top of all that, so I'm not out there missing assignments and doing things like that. I'm just trying to get better every day at a time and doing what I need to do to help my team."
Jackson's playmaking ability should greatly bolster an offense which hasn't had two wideouts catch at least 50 passes since 2009 back when he was in his second season in Philadelphia and Griffin was a sophomore at Baylor. Jackson topped that figure in four of his six seasons in Philadelphia while Garcon has done so in three of his five seasons as a starter in Indianapolis and Washington. Andre Roberts, a free agent from Arizona who exceeded 50 catches during both of his seasons as a Cardinals starter, is expected to supplant 35-year-old Santana Moss as the Redskins' No. 3 receiver.
"I'd rather be on the team that has all the weapons," said Jackson, who had 30 more catches than any Eagles teammate in 2013. "Me and Andre were saying every play somebody has to be open. With me, (Moss), Pierre, (tight end Jordan Reed), Roberts … there's just so many options. … As long as we're all open, it makes it easier for RGIII. I have high expectations (for the offense). There's a lot of playmakers on this team. It's going be tough on defenses."
So what does Jackson expect from himself this season with a lucrative contract and two games against his former team'
"Honestly, man, I just want to help my team win games," he said. "The little things I just say (are) the things to help my team as far as with energy and just kind of being that guy that's out there making plays and just leading by example. As long as I'm out there making plays and having fun and playing at a level where I'm used to playing at, I think I'll just feed off of other guys here as well. What I look forward to is to continue to go out there and be known as one of the best playmakers in this league."