Regardless of his later redemption — catching a touchdown with 44 seconds left — Jackson was the reason for the loss. An atrocious punt return ended with a fumble that led to Dallas’ only touchdown and a 16-9 lead with 1:14 remaining. The blunder gave the Cowboys’ struggling offense hope. After managing only nine points in the opening 58 minutes, Dallas scored 10 points in less than two minutes after Jackson’s gaffe.
The receiver’s highs and lows Monday exemplify his entire season. He missed the preseason with a shoulder injury suffered early in training camp, then admittedly didn’t work out properly and strained a hamstring in the second series of the season opener and had to miss the following six games. Considering that he skipped voluntary offseason workouts, Jackson seemed to have quickly worn out his welcome with the Redskins.
And then Jackson returned and revived an offense that had no downfield threat. He had a 42-yard reception against New Orleans in his first game back, and has scored a touchdown in three straight games. He had a 56-yard touchdown at Carolina, a 63-yarder vs. New York and a 28-yarder against Dallas — when he was facing pressure to atone for his earlier turnover.
Washington doesn’t have another receiver nearly as good as Jackson, and only tried him as a returner hoping for an electric play that could win a low-scoring game. (This is the guy who beat New York on a 65-yard punt return in 2010, after all.) But Jackson’s attempt at making a big play Monday failed miserably, as he tried too hard by running horizontally instead of taking the available few yards ahead.
The Redskins desperately need a big finish from Jackson to win the inept NFC East. More importantly, they’ll need to keep him next season even though it will be costly. In 2016, the Redskins will owe him $3.75 million in base salary, plus another $4.25 million in incentives and bonuses if they keep him on the roster.
Nobody moves the needle for the Redskins like Jackson. Washington’s running game is nonexistent and its wide receiver depth doesn’t extend beyond Pierre Garcon and Jackson. The Redskins have several speedy receivers, but none have anything close to Jackson’s playmaking ability.
Redskins fans will have to forgive Jackson’s miscue. He’s worth the stress.
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