It's been a long(ish) road back for Pierre Garcon, but there's reason to believe that you can expect more from him in Week 5 than you could have in either of his brief appearances this season.
The Washington Redskins wide receiver, who injured his right foot just a few plays into this season, got back onto the field very briefly for Washington's 24-22 win over Tampa Bay in Week 4, and his impact was subtle, to say the least.
This week, though, against the Falcons, you can expect more from him—at least according to the one guy who knows best.
After Garcon participated fully in Wednesday's practice, Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan told the Free Lance-Star's Zac Boyer:
I think he’ll get back in football shape by practicing every day this week. Hopefully there is no setback. There wasn’t a setback today. He had a full practice and I’m just guessing he had some pain, but not enough to keep him out. Hopefully he can play at a very high level this weekend.
Boyer reports that Wednesday marked Garcon's first full day of practice since Sept. 7, so there's no better sign than that to suggest that this is the best the receiver has felt since before the 2012 season began.
Garcon was finally cleared to play last week against Tampa Bay, but he only made one 20-yard reception. Coming into this season, he was expected to be Robert Griffin III's top target, but even without him, Washington's offense has been just fine.
The 2-2 Redskins have managed to put up at least 24 points in each of their four games, but much of the credit is due to the backfield, which ranks second best in the NFL. Washington's passing offense ranks 15th, and that is where Garcon comes in.
Judging by Shanahan's post-practice comments on Wednesday, we can be cautiously optimistic that Garcon is going to get more than one or two targets against Atlanta this weekend. The Redskins are going to need him against Atlanta, owners of the league's eighth-best pass defense.
It's not going to be easy to get anything going in the air against the Falcons, nor is it going to be easy to keep pace with Matt Ryan's offense. The Redskins are going to need their A-team on the field in the event that they struggle early and need to go airborne to keep up. And to do that, they need Garcon.
Overall, the Falcons allow 207.0 passing yards per game. We don't know how good Garcon is going to feel on Sunday, but we can assume he'll feel better than he did last week.
The Redskins aren't likely to come at the Falcons—whose rush defense is far weaker than their pass defense—with a pass-heavy attack, so expecting Garcon to dominate the box score in Week 5 is a little much.
If he gets six or seven targets, it wouldn't be unreasonable to expect him to put up somewhere between 50-70 yards. If any Redskins receiver is going to haul in a touchdown pass—which none of them did last week—it's likely to be him.
We can expect more production out of Garcon this week. He may not be lighting up the field, but it will certainly be an improvement over where he was in Weeks 1 and 4.