ASHBURN — Washington Redskins wide receiver DeSean Jackson has been sidelined since injuring his left hamstring during the team’s season-opening loss to the Miami Dolphins.
The initial timetable for Jackson’s return was three to four weeks, but it proved overly optimistic.
Wednesday marked a full month, plus one day, since the injury occurred, but Jackson was still limited by it in practice.
Jackson’s success is predicated on his speed. There isn’t much that the 5-foot-10 receiver can contribute with an injured hamstring slowing him down.
“What [Jackson] gets paid to do is run fast,” coach Jay Gruden said after practice. “If he’s not 100 percent and he’s not running fast, then he’s not effective for us.”
During the portion of practice open to reporters on Wednesday, Jackson was running routes against Gruden. He appeared to be moving faster and cutting harder than in previous weeks.
“I feel like I’m at that point now where I’m ready to be able to be out there and get things accomplished,” Jackson said. “We’ll see how the week goes. Hopefully, I’ll be ready for Sunday.”
Jackson wasn’t the only one expressing positivity about his progress. Quarterback Kirk Cousins said the 28-year-old speedster seemed much improved.
“We ran a route today that I felt like he had been out there for the last several weeks,” Cousins said. “He snapped it down and caught the ball well. It was on rhythm.”
Jackson led the Redskins with 1,169 receiving yards and six touchdowns last season. His 20.9 yards-per-reception average was not only a team best but also topped the league by a three-yard margin.
In addition to bringing the potential for a home-run play on every snap, having a burner like Jackson at wide receiver frees up the rest of the offense. When opponents are forced to provide safety help to account for Jackson’s speed, other members of the Redskins’ offense stand to benefit.
“Any time your best players are on the field, you have a great chance as a play caller, as a quarterback, to do special things,” Cousins said. “To get DeSean back gives us that opportunity.”
If Jackson plays Sunday against the New York Jets, he would provide the Redskins’ offense with a much-needed, big-play dynamic. One complicating matter: If Trent Williams is unable to play because of a back injury, Cousins could have trouble finding enough time in the pocket to throw the deep ball. Williams said he is ready to tough it out, but the call may not be his to make.
“Got to wait and see what coach says, see what the doctor says,” Williams said. “Obviously, if there is any chance I’m gonna play, I’m gonna play.”
Culliver, secondary still ailing
After playing through a knee injury in the Redskins’ Week 4 win over the Philadelphia Eagles, cornerback Chris Culliver did not take the field against the Falcons or participate in the week of practice leading up to the game.
Culliver participated Wednesday, albeit in a limited capacity, verifying Gruden’s statement that “his knee’s improved.” The 27-year-old attributed some of the progress to the recovery routine he is following.
“We’ve got a good game plan and it’s been helping,” Culliver said. “I feel good. We’ve just been taking it easy, ramping it up.”
Depth at cornerback has been a cause for concern ever since the Redskins lost DeAngelo Hall to a sprained right toe in Week 3. Hall hasn’t practiced since.
Culliver’s availability against the Jets became an even greater cause for concern when Gruden announced Monday that corner Bashaud Breeland bruised his rotator cuff during the Falcons game.
“As far as the injury is concerned, we’re going to have to monitor it pretty close,” Gruden said. “He’s pretty sore. He could barely lift his hand up over past his shoulder.”
But Gruden downplayed the severity of Breeland’s injury after Wednesday’s practice.
“I think Breeland is going to be fine. It’s different, a little sore shoulder for a DB than your knee,” Gruden said, referencing Culliver’s injury. “I feel good about Breeland where he is at. I think he’ll go. We’ll have to wait and see on [Culliver].”
Additionally, Gruden said that fill-in starter Will Blackmon’s “outstanding game” against the Falcons left him confident that the secondary could hold up in the event one or both players can’t play Sunday.
“If one of those two guys can’t go, we feel comfortable good about [Blackmon] back there,” Gruden said.
Tight end Jordan Reed, who is still following the concussion protocol, attended practice for the first time since the injury in Week 4 but did not participate.Defensive end Jason Hatcher, 33, was given the day off to rest. Others limited at practice were running back Matt Jones (sprained big toe), center Kory Lichtensteiger (shoulder and broken thumb) and defensive end Stephen Paea (lower back injury). Inside linebacker Perry Riley, defensive end Kedric Golston, wide receiver Pierre Garcon, left guard Spencer Long and running back Chris Thompson all practiced in full.