On Paper, DeSean Jackson Makes Washington's Offense as Dangerous as It Gets

Brad Gagnon NFL National ColumnistApril 2, 2014

FILE - In this Dec. 31, 2013 file photo, Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson speaks during a news conference in Philadelphia. The Eagles have released Jackson. The team cut Jackson on Friday, March 28, 2014. He was coming off a career-best season in Philadelphia, leading the team with 82 catches for 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)
Matt Rourke

Take the speedy, talented Pierre Garcon at wide receiver, the emerging Jordan Reed at tight end, stud running back Alfred Morris, sky-is-the-limit quarterback Robert Griffin III and add DeSean Jackson, who is coming off a Pro Bowl season in which he had 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns. 

What do you get? 

Well, with Andre Roberts also in the mix, the Washington Redskins probably have themselves the fastest offense in the NFL, and maybe the most dangerous one as well. 

Jackson confirmed on Twitter early Wednesday morning that, indeed, he was joining the Redskins. Now, Jay Gruden's arsenal is officially loaded for Griffin, the young franchise quarterback.

Garcon, who makes $8.5 million a year, led the NFL with 113 catches last season. He finished the year with exactly 14 more receiving yards than Jackson, but both made the top 10. Those two are both coming off career years, and on paper both appear to be peaking at the age of 27 (they were born four months apart in 1986). 

NFC receiving yardage leaders, 2013
1. Calvin Johnson1,492
2. Alshon Jeffery1,421
3. Pierre Garcon1,346
4. DeSean Jackson1,332
5. Jordy Nelson1,314
Pro Football Reference

Reed looks like a star in the making. He might have had 1,000 yards if a concussion hadn't derailed his rookie season, but the 23-year-old still finished with 49 catches and 499 yards in only nine games. 

Roberts, who was signed for $4 million a year earlier this offseason, also runs a sub-4.5 40-yard dash. He's only 26 and has 182 receptions four years into his career.  

This is a fantasy football team. It's also probably Griffin's fantasy. 

The QB took to Twitter to welcome his new target after Jackson confirmed the signing:

We all know that new head coach Jay Gruden loves to air it out, but so does the 24-year-old starting quarterback. Now, he's got a receiver who caught more deep balls last year than anyone else in football, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). 

Jackson caught 16 passes of 20 yards or more, per PFF, with eight of those going for touchdowns. He dropped zero of the 33 deep balls thrown his way. 

Most deep receptions, 2013
PlayerDeep catchesDrops
1. DeSean Jackson160
2. Eric Decker151
2. Josh Gordon153
Pro Football Focus

As a rookie, RGIII had the fifth-highest accuracy percentage in the league on deep throws, per PFF. That went out the window as he and that entire offense came crashing back to earth in 2013, but now Griffin's right knee is expected to be fully healthy and his offensive line should be better.

And now, he'll have Jackson, one of 10 qualifying players who averaged more than 16 yards per catch last season—a three-time Pro Bowler who has never had fewer than 900 yards in a remotely complete season. 

This is supposed to be a pass-oriented offense under Gruden, which would be a big change of pace after two years of ground focus with Mike and Kyle Shanahan. There's little doubt they'll toss it around more now. But man, if those guys can indeed stretch the field, imagine what it could mean for Morris, who ranks second in the NFL with 2,888 yards since debuting in 2012. 

The 25-year-old former sixth-round pick has managed to average 4.7 yards per carry despite seeing loaded boxes for much of his career. Now, with Jackson and Garcon teaming up, he could have more room to breathe than ever before. 

All of that? It's the good news. The bad news is there's a reason nobody was willing to trade for Jackson, who has earned a reputation as a nuisance off the field and in the locker room. Unproven gang affiliations are only the tip of this iceberg—Jackson has the ability to severely damage a young, impressionable roster. 

Sort of like Washington's. 

This isn't just a young team, it's a young coaching staff. That's why we thought the 'Skins should pass on a guy with such a poor reputation. We thought this team could turn it around with or without a player of his ilk. 

But there's no doubt that Washington just became a hell of a lot better on the field. If Jackson is inspired to prove everybody wrong and stays out of trouble, he could absolutely help the 'Skins go from worst to first in the NFC East, just as they did two years ago, and just as Jackson's Eagles did in 2013. 

It's all about the risk/reward. ESPN's John Keim elaborates:  

Those I've spoken with who have more reservations about Jackson have been front office types; those who strongly endorse him are coaches. One coach from another team said certain players are worth taking a risk on and Jackson is one of them.

There's no denying this is the kind of gamble that has the potential to pay off in a big way. Of course, it could also blow up in Bruce Allen's face, which would really stink considering the potential financial and spiritual repercussions. 

One thing that nobody will dispute: Washington's 2014 season just became a hell of a lot more interesting.