Ron Schwane-USA TODAY Sports
Not too long ago, Pierre Garcon was the most heavily criticized non-defensive back on the Washington Redskins. The blue-chip free-agent signing that was supposed to immediately make life easier for rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III was injured after taking only eight snaps in Week 1 and wasn't a factor for the remainder of the first half of the season.
Some asked whether Garcon was willing to push through pain and take the field despite his injured toe, and many worried the fifth-year receiver was never going to have a chance to live up to the five-year, $42.5 million contract he signed in the spring of 2012.
But ever since the Redskins' Week 10 bye, Garcon has been healthy and remarkably productive, emerging as not only Washington's clear No. 1 receiver but also as one of the top wideouts
in the NFL
Against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, Garcon caught all seven of the passes thrown within his range, according to Pro Football Focus.
He's now led the team in receiving in each of the last five weeks. During that span, he ranks sixth in the NFL with 429 yards, seventh with 30 receptions and seventh with three touchdowns. Prorate that stretch over 16 games, and he'd be a 1,300-yard receiver while flirting with 100 catches and 10 touchdowns.
Back in his Indianapolis Colts
days with Peyton Manning
, drops were Garcon's biggest weakness. He dropped 13 passes on 119 targets in his final season with Manning, 2010.
He dropped 11 percent of the passes thrown his way that season, according to PFF, but that percent sunk to just four last season and is holding steady at five percent during these last five games.
These were the kinds of passes Garcon was known to drop in the past. But against Philadelphia in the first quarter Sunday, he secured this in traffic to get Washington into Philly territory down 7-0.
And then in the second half, on a high pass from Griffin...
On the right sideline against the Giants
And reaching way back to grab a bad pass from Griffin against Dallas
. He'd come down from this and somehow run through the Dallas defense for a 59-yard touchdown, showing off his blazing speed.
His route running has impressed me, too. His routes have been crisp, and I haven't seen a lot of miscues. Sunday, for instance, he made a fantastic move against Philly's zone look, selling Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie that he was running a post and then curling back in to become wide open for RG3. That resulted in a 29-yard catch.
And the man's been showing off his versatility by becoming a huge part of the underneath-oriented attack that comes with running the option. His presence has really been felt on bubble screens and quick timing routes in the flats. Garcon helped set the tone in the first half against Baltimore
by turning this screen into a 23-yard gain...
The expectations have never been higher for Garcon. Remember, this was some sixth-round scrub out of a college nobody had ever heard of who was supposedly only putting up big numbers because he was working with a Hall of Fame quarterback.
Which NFC East QB-WR duo will be most effective in 2013?
But last year, he had easily his best season yet despite catching passes from Curtis Painter and Dan Orlovsky
. And now he's in D.C., making over $20 million guaranteed and delivering in a whole new setting and system. He's healthy again, and he's starting to pay off.
And he's only 26. Griffin already loves looking his way and trusts him deep. Can you imagine what these two might be able to do with a full, healthy season together in 2013?
I'm seeing what's happening with Andy Dalton and A.J. Green and Matt Ryan and Julio Jones, and I'm beginning to believe Griffin and Garcon can become just as scary, if not scarier. Before long, there might not be a better quarterback-receiver battery in the NFL than this one.