The Redskins signed DeSean Jackson in the offseason primarily for his speed and explosiveness as a wide receiver and return specialist.
But Jackson flaunted his defensive ability in Washington’s preseason victory over Cleveland, switching into defensive-back mode the split-second Cleveland cornerback Joe Haden intercepted a pass intended for him during the Redskins’ second drive.
Jackson brought down the fifth-year veteran on Washington’s 46. And his efforts drew kudos from Redskins Coach Jay Gruden in reviewing the highs and lows of the 24-23 victory.
“It was great to see,” Gruden said. “It is very important for us when we make a mistake on offense to make sure we all rally and get the runner on the ground so our defense can make a play.”
According to the coach, the interception was the result of two factors: A late throw by quarterback Robert Griffin III and Haden’s veteran wiles.
“[Griffin] threw the ball late on an out route to DeSean, and Joe Haden is one of the top corners in the NFL, and he will make you pay,” Gruden said. “He saw it and knew it right away.”
Jackson had made an 11-yard catch earlier in the drive when Griffin targeted him again.
Said Jackson, who played defense in high school: “It was just second nature for me. [I was] just trying to run him down so he doesn’t score a touchdown. That was my biggest thing. I kind of dove at him and got rolled up on my leg. Wasn’t too bad.”
Though Haden ran the ball back 37 yards before Jackson’s tackle, the Browns came away with no points from the turnover. The drive fizzled on linebacker Ryan Kerrigan’s second sack of the night, which dropped rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel for a seven-yard loss.
Monday’s game marked the preseason debut of starting wide receivers Jackson and Pierre Garcon. Jackson had two catches for 34 yards. Garcon’s lone reception was negated by one of the 11 penalties called against the Redskins.
Jackson, 27, the Redskins’ highest-profile offseason acquisition, is coming off his most productive season in the league. He had 82 catches for 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns, only to be released by the Eagles in the spring.
“People don’t realize that I can do it all — short, deep and midrange,” said Jackson, who won three Pro Bowl honors during his six seasons with Philadelphia. “I just like to consider myself an all-around receiver. Don’t look at me as just being a deep threat. Making short passes into long gains is something I love to do.”
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