LANDOVER — DeSean Jackson was already slicing through the New York Giants’ secondary as Kirk Cousins faked a stretch handoff to Alfred Morris. Moments before, Jackson was split out right at the Washington Redskins’ 37-yard line as Cousins went through an expedited cadence, hoping to catch the Giants’ defense off guard.
With cornerback Jayron Hosley deferring to over-the-top help, only former Redskins strong safety Brandon Meriweather stood between the diminutive speedster and the end zone. Jackson carved slightly left, torching across the hash marks and burning Meriweather in the process.
All Cousins had to do was hoist the football 50 yards downfield and away from Meriweather. Jackson did the rest by ensuring the football fell in his hands. Once it did, he shifted into neutral and coasted for the final 15 yards, drawing out the one-play, 63-yard touchdown drive in the Redskins’ 20-14 victory to 11 seconds by skirting along the goal line before backing into the end zone.
“DeSean won his matchup and got behind the safety,” Cousins said. “I was able to lead him across the field. I had a great pocket. He made the catch. He made the play. It was his ability to get behind the defense with his speed and then track the football in the air that’s so special.”
Jackson finished with two catches for 66 yards, gaining just three yards on a screen on third-and-21 in the first quarter. For those 11 seconds in the second quarter, which pushed the Redskins’ lead on the Giants to 10-0 with 10:18 to play before halftime, Jackson was the best player on the field.
“That’s what D-Jax does,” wide receiver Jamison Crowder said. “He goes deep.”
Jackson was unable to do much of anything for the majority of the season. He sprained the AC joint in his right shoulder on Aug. 6, forcing him to sit out the Redskins’ entire preseason. He returned in time for the Redskins’ season opener, only to tear his left hamstring on the opening play of the offense’s second drive.
“It was unfortunate to have the injury I had coming in at the beginning of the season,” Jackson said. “Finally, I feel like I’m back and doing everything I’m asked to do and able to play at a high level.”
Though Jackson only made an impact with the ball in his hands on the touchdown play, his mere presence on the field helped the rest of the offense operate freely. The quick strike put pressure on Eli Manning and the Giants, who had to play from behind the rest of the afternoon; Manning threw three interceptions on Sunday after throwing just six interceptions in the first 10 games.
The Redskins’ offense racked up 407 total yards without a turnover. Cousins completed 69 percent of his passes for 302 yards and one touchdown. Although their 2.8 yards per carry is far less than they would like, the Redskins only ran for more than 105 yards their total on Sunday, once in their past five games — and they did it against a New Orleans Saints defense that had given up the most yards per game entering this week.
“Getting a guy like that back in your offense, it does wonders for everybody,” left tackle Trent Williams said. “Even if he doesn’t touch the ball, just the fear that he puts in opposing defenses. [He]’s not like any receiver in the league. He’s the best deep threat that this league has seen in my opinion.”
The 28-year-old led the league with 20.7 yards per catch last season — three yards more than his closest peer. No player has more than Jackson’s 23 touchdowns of 50 or more yards since entering the league in 2008. He is averaging 58 yards per touchdown reception with the Redskins.
“He’s a special guy who’s been around for a long time,” running back Matt Jones said. “People know about him, and now that he’s back, people have got to respect him.”
Sunday’s victory marked Jackson’s fourth game back since succumbing to injury in Week 1. Now that he’s played the equivalent of a preseason, he’s beginning to show the wheels that make him one of the league’s premier deep threats.
“When my number is called,” Jackson said, “I’m ready to play.”