Washington Redskins Must Keep DeSean Jackson Away From The Punt Return Game

By Greg Bradshaw
Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Washington Redskins head coach Jay Gruden must be salivating over the different ways he can use newly acquired wide receiver DeSean Jackson. Like him or dislike him, NFL fans with a pulse realize that Jackson is one of the NFL’s most dangerous receivers. He adds a game breaking element that the Redskins haven’t had since quarterback Robert Griffin III’s rookie season in 2012.

In his six seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles, Jackson averaged 17.2 yards per catch for his career, has recorded 32 touchdown receptions, rushed for three touchdowns and has returned four punts for touchdowns. Jackson’s still in his prime at age 27 and his skill set demands that he becomes Washington’s primary receiver. That should be his only role if the current Redskins’ coaching staff had any common sense. Jackson didn’t come cheap, and he wasn’t brought to Washington to return punts. He was recruited to stretch the field and utilize RG3’s strong throwing arm by catching his deep touchdown passes.

Washington’s punt return unit does need attention, as the Redskins’ special teams unit was the epitome of disaster in 2013. Besides Jackson, there are several others who can return punts for the Redskins. Cornerback Richard Crawford could be the front-runner at punt returner, but he needs to get in football shape after missing the entire 2013 season due to injury. Newly acquired wide receiver Andre Roberts can also return punts, but he’ll see a lot of time as a slot receiver in Washington’s offense. That could limit Roberts’ opportunities to return punts.

Veteran wide receiver Santana Moss was a great punt returner earlier in his career, and Jackson’s arrival in Washington may decrease Moss’ role in the Redskins’ offense. He might be the best option to return punts, considering that he’s returned three for touchdowns in his NFL career. Moss hasn’t returned punts consistently since he was a member of the New York Jets. It would be asking a lot of Moss to contribute greatly to the Redskins’ punt return unit, considering he’ll be 35 when the 2014 season starts. If the coaching staff passes on Moss, they may have to consider the upcoming draft to find a suitable punt returner. In any event, Washington needs Jackson to sustain his big play heroics in the passing game, not the return game.

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