The Washington Redskins managed to line up the first visit of DeSean Jackson‘s free agent tour. Jackson was released by NFC East rivals Philadelphia Eagles last week after a number of reported incidents behind the scenes. As someone without access to the team, I can’t comment to what Jackson’s off-field problems could be or how serious they are. So I’ll stick to analyzing his play on the field. From watching his film, I believe he’s an excellent fit for the Redskins offense.
His most obvious trait that jumps out at you is his deep-threat ability. He has explosive speed that can “take the top off” a defense and burn defenders if they lose concentration for even a split second.
Here against the Giants, Philadelphia calls for Jackson to run a go route. The Giants load the box with eight defenders, something the Redskins have seen a lot of thanks to their strong rushing attack. That leaves only one deep safety in the middle of the field. From this look, the defense is most likely to play Cover 1 (man coverage outside with the deep safety following the quarterbacks eyes) or Cover 3 (the outside corners drop to join the safety deep, each covering a deep third of the field). In this case, the Giants play Cover 1, which leaves the safety open to being manipulated.
All the quarterback has to do from the snap is look to the opposite side of the field to move the safety over. That effectively puts the corner covering Jackson on an island without help. Jackson is much too good to not take advantage of that.
By the time the ball is being thrown, Jackson has a yard on his defender with the safety stranded on the opposite side of the field. Only an under-thrown pass by the quarterback stops this play from being a touchdown.
Jackson has the ability to beat teams deep, even if the deep safety isn’t out of position.
This is another go route from Jackson, who will take an outside release up the sideline this time.
The quarterback looks to his left to try and move the safety, but he isn’t fooled, dropping back along the same hash-marks he started on.
But Jackson’s speed is just too much. He outruns the corner and comes down with the easy touchdown catch.
Jackson has consistently burned corners and safeties during his NFL career. Some teams reacted by rolling the deep safety towards Jackson’s side, just to give the corner some extra protection. But that leaves the corner on the other side of the field without as much help. This is where Jackson’s fit with the Redskins would be ideal. Here’s one of the Redskins’ favorite play-action concepts since Robert Griffin III was drafted.
The Redskins show a run look to the defense, which draws an eighth defender into the box, leaving a single deep safety. The main target of the play is Pierre Garcon on the deep dig route. They have Aldrick Robinson lined up on the other side to run a deep route to get the attention of the deep safety and open up space underneath for Garcon to work with. These types of plays come with an alert tag on the deep receiver, which tells the quarterback to be alert to the possibility of hitting the deep pass if the safety gets caught out of position.
On this occasion, the safety stays deep because of the threat of Robinson, leaving Garcon wide open as he cuts inside. It’s an extremely effective concept that gives the quarterback an easy throw. However, teams began to catch on and started attacking the dig from Garcon, taking it away. Robinson couldn’t take advantage of the safeties taking away Garcon often enough. But as we’ve already seen, Jackson is more than capable of doing that. Adding DeSean Jackson gives the defense an extra weapon to worry about on this concept. They will always have to account for Jackson, leaving space for Garcon underneath. The other option is to play two safeties deep, but that leaves seven in the box, which Washington have always been happy to run against.
But Jackson is more than just a deep threat. He has the potential to take a simple underneath crossing route and turn it into a huge gain. Washington liked to send Robinson on underneath crossing routes last season.
Here Robinson lines up outside against man coverage.
The Redskins use Santana Moss in the slot to create traffic for Robinson to cut underneath.
Robinson finds himself in acres of space in the middle of the field as he receives the ball, but stutters and ends up not making the most of the play.
Jackson has been used similarly during his time in Philadelphia.
Here, Jackson motions into a stack set. The Vikings are blitzing, trusting their corners to cover man to man. But with Jackson in a stack, his corner is forced to play off the line of scrimmage and give Jackson a cushion.
The cushion ends up being too much space for the corner to make up, as Jackson is wide open on the crosser. But unlike Robinson, Jackson doesn’t stutter and miss out on extra yards. He makes the most of the play.
His ability to cut on a dime makes him extremely elusive. He dodges multiple tackle attempts and turns a simple five-yard crosser into a 51-yard gain.
If you look at purely his film, it is an easy decision to sign Jackson. But obviously, there was a reason the Eagles were willing to release a player with such talent. It’ll certainly be interesting to see how his visit with the Redskins pans out.
Who has been your favorite free agent signing so far?
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