The best game of Taylor Jacobs's young NFL career was lost amid the controversial officiating decisions and the Redskins' failed comeback attempt Sunday, but it may be a precursor of what is to come. Jacobs, a second-round pick in 2003, is becoming a central figure in Coach Joe Gibbs's offense, getting on the field for more than half of the plays recently and contributing on special teams as well.
Jacobs has become the third wide receiver in most sets and caught five passes against the Packers, doubling his career total in one afternoon. He has blocked well as an H-back, a role he often takes on in the red zone, and has the speed, Gibbs believes, to stretch the field and aid the team's quest of making big plays through the air. Jacobs was hampered by a bruised pancreas in his rookie season and suffered through a series of potentially serious groin pulls in training camp, but pushed to get back on the field and has improved weekly.
"He gradually just worked his way into things," Gibbs said. "He's very athletic. He has very, very good speed and he's smart and sharp and makes good decisions, and I think he's starting to play a little more and make plays and start getting the confidence. He's had a good year so far. He had a burning desire when he got hurt early in the year and he was anxious to get back out there."
Some wondered if Jacobs would find his way under Gibbs; Jacobs played for former coach Steve Spurrier in college and the Redskins acquired free agent wide receiver James Thrash in the offseason and gave wide receiver Darnerien McCants a three-year, $4.5 million extension with a $2 million signing bonus. But McCants has been inactive almost every week and has not been on the field in a game.
Jacobs's ability to perform on special teams has been the primary reason for supplanting McCants, numerous team sources said, and with the team running more three-receiver sets now and Thrash handling punt return duties, the coaches expect Jacobs to continue to contribute regularly.
Jacobs has the speed to back up top wide receiver Laveranues Coles on outside routes when he needs a breather and, with the team committed to dressing four receivers each week, each must be able to contribute in multiple ways, offensive coordinator Don Breaux said. "Those are the things we see from Taylor," Breaux said. Rod Gardner is entrenched as the second wideout.
"Every time they throw the ball to me I'm making a conscious effort to come down with it," Jacobs said, "because I know my opportunity is limited and we've got a lot of great receivers here. So I'm trying to make the most of my opportunity."
Jacobs said he has adapted to the H-back role and the pass protection nuances that come with it, while McCants said he has been given no specific word on what he must do to make the active roster. McCants has been surprised with this turn of events given the contract he signed before the season began.
"I really haven't been told much," McCants said. "I just have to do what I have to do."
The Redskins' injury list was unchanged from Wednesday. LaVar Arrington (knee), John Hall (groin), Andre Lott (torn pectoral muscle) and Chad Morton (knee) are out. Linebacker Mike Barrow (knee) is questionable and Phillip Daniels (groin), Chris Samuels (ankle), Fred Smoot (shoulder), Cornelius Griffin (back) and Rod Gardner (hip) are probable. . . .
Gregg Williams, assistant head coach -- defense, said he believes Cornelius Griffin is becoming one of the best defensive linemen in the NFL and has already surpassed the 50-tackle plateau.
"He's as active of an interior lineman as I've ever coached," Williams said. "Not to tip our hand, but you'll want to see some of the things we'll do with him this week." . . .
The Redskins practiced on the artificial surface at Redskins Park yesterday afternoon due to the rain, but will also play their first game on turf Sunday in Detroit's domed stadium.