Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler tries to tackle DeSean Jackson on one of the wide receiver’s three catches Sunday. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

Wide receiver DeSean Jackson made an uneventful return to action on Sunday, recording just three catches for 15 yards on six targets in Washington’s 27-10 loss to the New England Patriots. Coach Jay Gruden believes a lack of quality practice time during the offseason and training camp, plus Jackson’s lengthy injury-induced absence, played a large factor in the wide receiver’s ineffectiveness.

Without Jackson, Washington’s offense has lacked an explosive downfield threat. Gruden and his assistants had anticipated that Jackson’s return would lead to more opportunities for big plays.

However, Jackson on Sunday didn’t appear to have the same burst that enabled him to lead the NFL in yards per catch last season. He didn’t get open on the one downfield shot attempted for him, and Jackson and quarterback Kirk Cousins appeared out of sync on other plays.

It will take time for the two to re-develop a rapport, Gruden said.

“The problem is he wasn’t here in OTAs, he missed a lot of camp and he missed the first [seven] games,” Gruden explained, “so to have the cohesiveness with the quarterback right out of the chute would probably be a little bit wishful thinking.”

Jackson missed half of the Redskins’ offseason practices during the spring. Then a week into training camp, he sprained the AC joint in his right shoulder. The Redskins originally projected that Jackson would miss one to two weeks of action, but he didn’t return to practice until the week leading up to the regular season opener. Jackson then strained his left hamstring early in the first quarter of Washington’s Week 1 matchup with Miami. That original prognosis called for Jackson to miss three to four weeks of action, but he wound up missing the next six games before finally making it back onto the field on Sunday.

Gruden on Sunday evening attributed Jackson’s quiet return to rust. On Monday, he expressed hope that the wide receiver can soon return back to top form and help spark a struggling offense.

“We do have high expectations for DeSean once we get him rolling, but yesterday wasn’t his day, wasn’t our day as an offense,” Gruden said. “But hopefully next week, we’ll see more balls flying his way and he can go get them.”

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