DeSean Jackson Signing Means No More Excuses for Robert Griffin III

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistApril 2, 2014

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Robert Griffin III won't be chafing under the rule of Mike and Kyle Shanahan in 2014. He also won't be wearing the knee brace that restricted his movement last season.

However, he will have the best receiving corps he's had as a pro. ESPN's Adam Schefter is reporting that the Washington Redskins have signed DeSean Jackson to a three-year deal:

Bringing Jackson to D.C. means there are no more excuses for Griffin not to play like the franchise quarterback he is supposed to be.

Owner Dan Snyder, general manager Bruce Allen and head coach Jay Gruden have given 2012's second overall pick everything he needs to live up to the hype surrounding him.

Griffin has sometimes buckled under the weight of expectation he directly or indirectly generates. He was distinctly average for large portions of his second season.

He threw for fewer touchdowns (16) and more interceptions (12) than he did as a rookie. While an offseason spent recovering from major knee surgery played its part, Griffin struggled to develop as a passer.

His accuracy was wayward, while his ability to read a defense and decipher pressure was weak at best. Supporters of the former Heisman Trophy winner would point first to a lack of credible receiving options.

It's true that Pierre Garcon was a virtual one-man band among the wideouts, establishing a single-season franchise record with 113 catches.

Griffin now has much more than just Pierre Garcon to aim for.
Griffin now has much more than just Pierre Garcon to aim for.David Goldman

But it would be churlish to ignore the rapid emergence of rookie tight end Jordan Reed. The explosive "move" target was like a bonus playmaker for Griffin to exploit.

Yet even with Garcon and Reed quickly forming a dangerous double act, Griffin's follies were often excused by receivers failing to get open, running the wrong routes or struggling with drops.

The pattern of blaming anyone other than the anointed franchise saviour was never more evident than after a Week 11 loss to Jackson's Philadelphia Eagles.

Griffin threw a late end-zone interception that condemned Washington to a 24-16 defeat. In the aftermath, he chided his receivers for not getting open, as well as suggesting the play-calling was too obvious to opponents.

After one foolish decision in the pocket, Griffin laid blame at the door of both teammates and coaches before accepting any himself.

According to Jason Reid of The Washington Post, he "strongly encouraged team officials to improve the talent around him."

Well, what Griffin wants, he apparently gets. He has asked for better, and the response has been to spend big on 27-year-old Jackson:

Justifying that level of investment, which has come at the expense of adding marquee talent in the secondary and along the offensive line, depends on Griffin.

He can no longer search for excuses or play the blame game. Griffin must use this offseason to refine his delivery and prove he can master a playbook.

If he doesn't, Jacksonwho enjoyed a career year in 2013will represent wasted money.

He caught 82 passes for 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns to help the Eagles capture last season's NFC East crown. That doesn't sound like a guy who has much trouble getting open.

On a playing level, Jackson will make Griffin's life easier. His well-earned reputation as a dangerous vertical threat will commit defenses to keeping at least one safety deep.

That will add up to some single coverage underneath for both Reed and Garcon. Then there is also the space afforded to fellow new arrival Andre Roberts.

The former Arizona Cardinal is an excellent slot receiversomething else Griffin didn't have, but can now count on as another weapon.

Let's not forget the young quarterback still gets to rely on the support of two-time 1,000-yard rusher Alfred Morris. If Griffin can't produce with this strong a supporting cast, he will be out of excuses.

Andre Roberts is another new weapon for Griffin in 2014.
Andre Roberts is another new weapon for Griffin in 2014.Stephen Morton

Of course, being fully loaded at the skill positions won't help much if the offensive line remains soft. However, steps have already been taken to overhaul the group that surrendered 43 sacks in 2013.

Center Will Montgomery, who seemingly had a blind spot for any and all blitz pressures, is gone. He is replaced by left guard Kory Lichtensteiger, one of the team's most skilled zone-based blockers.

Former Cleveland Brown Shawn Lauvao steps in at left guard to add some much-needed extra power inside. Mike McGlynn, a 6'4", 325-pounder, will push for playing time at right guard.

A weak interior was the main issue up front last season, but Gruden may have already solved it. The new coach doesn't even need to stop there.

With Jackson on board, the need to draft a wide receiver almost goes away. That could leave Washington free to grab a lineman or two this May.

Jackson should be the final piece of the puzzle for Griffin.
Jackson should be the final piece of the puzzle for Griffin.Patrick Smith/Getty Images

By the time the 2014 NFL season begins, Griffin could be standing behind completely revamped O-line, aiming passes to the deepest group of targets he's ever had.

At that point, he'll have no excuse not to perform like the franchise quarterback Washington hoped it was getting when it traded consecutive first-round picks to draft him.

If Griffin fails to deliver with his new Jackson-led supporting cast, there won't be much else the Redskins can do to help him.


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