Washington Redskins: What to Expect from Pierre Garçon in Week 1
Pierre Garçon is going to be the Washington Redskins’ No. 1 receiver in 2012, but how will he be utilized in Week 1 against the New Orleans Saints? The preseason was a glimpse of what to expect, but the playbook will be significantly widened as we go into the regular season.
Garçon has the playmaking ability to be Robert Griffin III's favorite target. This was immediately illustrated during the opening preseason game against the Buffalo Bills. Garçon had three catches for 58 yards and a touchdown, which went some way towards satiating the fans who complained that the price for his services was too high.
Week 1 will offer a chance for Garçon to go even further towards making his price tag look palatable. Here are three things to expect when he takes the field in New Orleans on Sunday.
Lining Up at Different Receiver Positions
One of the good things about Garçon is that his skill set makes him a very versatile receiver. During the preseason, this was most evident in the game against the Chicago Bears.
Although this was Griffin’s weakest outing, it gave us useful clues as to how Garçon will be used within Mike and Kyle Shanahan’s offense. Garçon lined up as the “X” and the “Z” receiver and looked in command of both positions.
Garçon was used mainly at the “Z” during his time in Indianapolis, which makes sense when you consider his pace. What was surprising during the Bears game was that he was also effective as a blocker when lining up at the “X” position.
The position required him to be more physical in the absence of being the featured receiver—a task to which he forcefully applied himself. His competitive nature shined through here, and it was easy to see he was playing with something to prove.
He caused confusion by varying his route-running and taking short, intermediate and deep routes to help his quarterback and keep the defense guessing. Even on running plays he was combative and tough, which was equally impressive to see.
The word “versatility” been used so much this year when referring to the ‘Skins, but it’s mainly been adopted as a patch to conceal limited depth.
With Garçon as part of an already stacked receiving corps, Shanahan can further vary the receiver sets, lining him up in different positions to suit different packages.
Look for the Redskins to do this on Sunday, exploiting any confusion in a Saints defense operating without its head coach. Saints defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo will need to be alert at all times to contain the threat that Garçon’s flexibility presents.
Designed Griffin-Garçon Plays
When Griffin consistently chose Garçon in the first preseason game, it was pounced upon by the media and then Griffin tried to play it down.
It just so happens that he got targeted more times than everyone else. It's not like we were calling plays designated for Pierre. We were just calling our base plays, going through the reads. And it just so happens that his number popped up. (Via Mark Maske, The Washington Post).
Griffin’s insistence that it was a coincidence can’t really be taken too seriously. He doesn’t want to reveal too much about the offense during the preseason, so of course he will say that it was coincidence.
However, the fact remains that if you give up three draft picks and $42.5 million for a quarterback-receiver combination, you immediately start designing plays to make the most of that.
This is why we saw Garçon used in such an erratic manner during the Bears game. The preseason is a dress rehearsal for the regular season, but it’s a limited one. Every team refrains from using its big plays, while simultaneously hoping its big players stay healthy.
Using Garçon in that seemingly haphazard manner acted as a smokescreen for the Redskins' intentions for Week 1 and beyond.
Expect the Griffin-Garçon connection to develop as the season moves on. The versatility of Garçon means that he can play any receiving position asked of him, which favors Griffin immensely.
In an earlier article, I mentioned one scenario that could have some success. Playing at the “X”, Garçon can line up on the back side of the run on play-action bootlegs, beat the defender and get open deep.
This also gives Griffin the option of keeping the ball and making the play himself, or it could open cutback lanes for the running backs with a fake.
The presence of a dual-threat quarterback will be of great benefit to Garçon. As John Keim noted for the Washington Examiner, the Bills’ backside defenders were changing their angles on bootlegs so that Griffin was the focus. When Rex Grossman was on the field, they were going at the running backs.
That level of respect for Griffin as a run threat will give Garçon more opportunities to get deep. Again. lining up at the “X,” Garçon will look innocuous as Griffin rolls out to his right.
The defense will instinctively gravitate towards Griffin, letting Garçon go by. Garçon is then open in the backfield, allowing Griffin to throw back across to the left and pick him out for a large gain.
It will be genuinely exciting to watch this young quarterback-receiver combination grow together. Griffin will develop chemistry with all his receivers, obviously, but Garçon is the one who was brought in to spearhead the offense with him.
Despite the previous descriptions of plays where Garçon will slip past the defense unchecked, those will be in the minority. While it’s likely that the Redskins will have some success with misdirection, Garçon will be facing double coverage a lot of the time.
This is the life of a No. 1 receiver. If Garçon is to have a 1,000 yard season, he’ll need to catch 70-80 passes this year—many of which he’ll have to fight for.
It’s unfair to expect him to put up Calvin Johnson-esque numbers, but Garçon has shown improvement with each season. The next step is to break 1,000 yards.
He has the pace to be a threat, and Griffin has the pace to keep the play alive. It’s easy to see why the Redskins brought them together.
As described earlier, Garçon has also shown the physical side to his game, which will be invaluable as he fights for yards after the catch. He can’t afford to be jammed at the line of scrimmage before the play develops; instead he will have to fight through uneven matchups while maintaining his routes.
Garçon is a good route-runner and has to trust that Griffin will get him the ball if he sticks to them. At the end of May, Garçon spoke to Mark Maske at The Washington Post about his new quarterback:
The play is always on, no matter what happens. If he’s rolling out or if he’s in the pocket, he can make plays with his feet and then [complete] passes…. You just have to be ready for whenever the ball comes out and wherever it comes from. You just have to be ready for it.
There are a lot of Redskins fans hoping that he is.