ORCHARD PARK, N.Y.— Pierre Garcon gave the Washington Redskins an early payoff for their decision to pursue him so intently on the free agent market and pay him like a top-shelf wide receiver.
Garcon was a reliable target for rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III as the Redskins’ starting offense managed one touchdown in three drives in Thursday night’s 7-6 victory over the Buffalo Bills to open the preseason. Garcon had three catches for 58 yards in his exhibition season Redskins debut, including a 20-yard touchdown on which he maneuvered into the corner of the end zone after grabbing a third-down screen pass thrown by Griffin.
Griffin and Garcon seemed to be in sync, a positive sign for the Redskins after they remade their wide receiver corps in free agency, anticipating the selection of Griffin second overall in the NFL draft.
“It was a good, productive day,” Garcon said. “We learned a lot today. . . . It was definitely a confidence booster for what we were trying to do. The first two drives were a bit tough, but we kept going. That was what we wanted to see. We wanted to keep fighting and continue to work at it. We’re happy we ended that third drive with a touchdown.”
The Redskins lacked a 1,000-yard receiver last season, and Garcon didn’t manage a 1,000-yard season in his four years with the Indianapolis Colts. But he never was the top receiving option in Indianapolis as he played alongside wideout Reggie Wayne and tight end Dallas Clark. Right after the free agent market opened, the Redskins signed him to a five-year, $42.5 million contract, immediately making him the leading candidate to be Griffin’s No. 1 receiver in Washington.
Griffin looked Garcon’s way early and often Thursday. Garcon caught a third-and-eight pass from Griffin on the Redskins’ opening possession but was ruled out of bounds for an incompletion.
“The first ball I thought I caught in bounds,” Garcon said. “They didn’t show it on the replay. But it was good. We kept playing and we kept our poise and we continued to drive down the field.”
Things went more smoothly on the third — and final — possession of the night for the Redskins’ offensive starters. Garcon made a catch over the middle for a 20-yard gain, then teamed with Griffin for an 18-yard play soon thereafter.
On third and three from the Buffalo 20-yard line, Garcon lined up on the left side of the formation. Garcon took Griffin’s pass and followed blocks by left tackle Trent Williams and right guard Adam Gettis en route to scoring his touchdown.
“We got the ball moving that last series,” Redskins right tackle Tyler Polumbus said. “It felt good to move the chains a little bit…. We were running the same stuff. We just started running it better. We executed better and started doing our job, doing what we were supposed to do.”
Leonard Hankerson, the second-year pro who started at the wide receiver spot opposite Garcon, caught the other pass completed by Griffin, a 12-yarder on the Redskins’ second drive. It was Griffin’s first completion of the night.
Josh Morgan, the other wide receiver signed by the Redskins on the opening day of free agency, had four catches for 49 yards. Morgan had a 25-yard catch on a throw by veteran backup quarterback Rex Grossman, and three catches after rookie Kirk Cousins replaced Grossman. Morgan missed a week of training camp because of a strained hamstring but returned to practice this week.
More on the Redskins
Third series is the charm in Griffin’s preseason debut
Resilient offense, stingy defense is enough for preseason win
Reid: A lot to like, a lot to work on
Replacement officials draw scrutiny
Photos: Griffin has strong start