- The Washington Times - Monday, September 14, 2015

ASHBURN — DeSean Jackson possesses the type of raw speed that will make opposing teams think twice about deploying tight coverage.

When he’s on the field, his ability to stretch the field and deliver the home run-type play is almost always accounted for.

Now, the Redskins are tasked with finding a way to replace that threat after Jackson pulled his left hamstring in Sunday’s 17-10 loss to the Miami Dolphins on the second drive of the game. He will miss the next three to four weeks, Redskins coach coach Jay Gruden said on Monday, adding it could be shorter.

Jackson sprained the AC joint in his shoulder on Aug. 6 and did not play in any preseason games, but Gruden dispelled the theory that the missed time caused the injury.

“I don’t know if it had a lot to do with him missing [training camp],” Gruden said. “It could very well have, but we don’t know that. You’d like to have guys all throughout training camp, but the shoulder limited him. But, he was still able to do a lot of running in that time, so I don’t think it really did.”

Jackson was open deep down the right sideline on the play and Kirk Cousins’ throw appeared too far. Gruden said after the game that he thought Jackson would have caught it if he didn’t get injured. On Monday, Gruden also called Cousins’ pass a “great throw.”

Losing Jackson isn’t an easy obstacle to overcome. He caught 56 passes for 1,169 yards last season with a league-leading average of 20.9 yards per catch. Jackson’s six receiving touchdowns were a team high.

“He’s one of our stars. You hate to lose a star especially with his speed,” Gruden said. “We feel good about the receivers that take his place but nobody can substitute him for that burning speed that gets downfield and scares safeties and corners to death, backs people up. Teams are able to play a little bit tighter coverage when he’s out of the game. Safeties can creep up a little bit. It’s a big loss for us.”

Without Jackson, the Redskins will now rely on receivers Ryan Grant, Andre Roberts, Jamison Crowder and Rashad Ross.

Though Jackson is hard to replace, the speedy Ross is the receiver with the skill set most similar to Jackson‘s. At Arizona State, Ross also excelled at track and field.

Ross, who entered the season having been cut from four different teams, including the Redskins, made the 53-man roster after standing out in the preseason. He led all receivers with 25 catches, 266 yards and four touchdowns. In the final game, he caught 10 passes for 103 yards and a score.

Ross was inactive on Sunday, but he’ll be counted on moving forward — possibly as soon as this week against the St. Louis Rams.

“I like Ross’ approach. We had him last year and he was a little bit all over the place.” Gruden said. “This year, he came in with a great mental approach as far as learning the system. … I was very impressed with him, and he’s done a better job in the run game.

“Throwing him out there against the St. Louis Rams, how much, how often, how will he do? We’ll see. We have a couple days of practice, see how much we can get out of him. Worst case he can be a good kickoff returner. He’s an excellent kickoff returner also for us.”

Until the Redskins feel Ross is ready to play meaningful offensive snaps, Gruden will look for increased production from veteran Andre Roberts, second-year receiver Ryan Grant and rookie Jamison Crowder.

“We have to utilize them,” Gruden said. “That’s the only option we have, so those guys have got to step up and make some plays. Might have to double move some people as opposed to just running by them. There’s a lot of things that you can do but it starts up front. We need the good protection to get those deep shots.”

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