- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 15, 2016

Week in and week out, Washington Redskins’ quarterback Kirk Cousins consistently takes to the podium on Wednesdays and stresses that he doesn’t play favorites with his targets. When it comes to distributing the ball, he just “goes where his reads take him.”

But his reads seem to consistently take him to Pierre Garçon, the sure-handed veteran who has been the Redskins’ clutch receiver this season.

Down 22-21 to the Philadelphia Eagles late in the fourth quarter, the Redskins faced 4th and 1 on the Eagles’ 35. With just 2:59 left in the game, Washington had no choice but to go for it. But instead of grinding out a yard on the ground — as most teams would opt to do — Cousins surprised the Eagles with a quick six-yarder to Garçon. The drive would end with the game-winning, 25-yard Chris Thompson touchdown just two plays later.

Reliability has been the hallmark of Garçon’s tenure in Washington. The nine-year vet continuously proves himself on the field on game day, but it’s actually in practice where Garçon has built trust. Garçon is the unequivocal leader of the receiver corps.

“I think he is our most consistent player, quite frankly,” coach Jay Gruden said of Garçon. “The way he practices also, he practices exactly like he plays and it’s great for the young guys to see that, a veteran-type guy like that with a talent that he has work as hard as he does on the practice field. And it carries over to the game because all the routes are the same and [Cousins] is very comfortable to throw to him because he knows how he’s going run them because he runs them every day the same.”

Drafted in 2008 by the Indianapolis Colts, Garçon worked alongside Hall of Fame receiver Marvin Harrison, six-time Pro Bowler Reggie Wayne and surefire Hall of Famer Peyton Manning. Surrounded by elite veterans, Garçon soaked in every detail.

“All the preparation and stuff I got was from them,” Garçon said. “Those guys were very successful at the stuff they did. They were the perfect people to watch to become successful. That’s definitely what I did, learn everything from them. And I still use it all now.”

“I think there was a standard of excellence there that he knows no other way to do it,” Cousins said. “So he’s always done it at that high level.”

That excellence has translated to on-field production. This season, Garçon has been targeted 93 times, more than any other Redskins’ receiver. His 64 catches also lead the Redskins, and he’s picked up 773 yards on those receptions. That’s just four fewer yards than all of last season.

Garçon, 30, works to prove he’s still got the speed and the moves to consistently beat the opposition at this stage of his career.

“He’s a very explosive athlete so there’s also some natural ability there that you can’t coach that when he does run his routes, he gets in and out of cuts in a very powerful, explosive way that is unique to him,” Cousins said. “And pound-for-pound, he could be the most powerful, explosive guy on the team with the athleticism that he has.”

“He is very versatile in that way where he can give you a lot of different routes in the pass game. He’s not one-dimensional.”

Garçon is a role model for teammates on and off the field. He was the Redskins’ nominee for the Walter Payton Man of the Year award, an honor given to the player in the NFL who meets high standards on the field while also representing the NFL in the community.

Garçon started his own community service effort, “Helping Hand,” as a rookie to help the needy. Earlier this season, he flew to Haiti, just hours after the Redskins’ game against the Baltimore Ravens, to bring medical supplies and water to the island after Hurricane Matthew’s destruction.

He’s a frequent attendee at Redskins’ sponsored community events and a participant in the NFL’s Play 60 program. He works with DC’s Boys & Girls Club, where he created The Pierre Garçon All-White Party, which has become the largest event in the spring program and has raised $400,000 for the club since its inception in 2013.

Garçon has put down roots in Washington, the city he now calls home.

“I love it,” Garçon said. “D.C. is a great city where there’s always energy. They are always happy about the Redskins. It’s definitely one of those places that loves their football team, and there’s always events going on when my family and friends come to town.”

That just makes the bind the Redskins will be in this offseason all the more difficult. With both Garçon and fellow receiver DeSean Jackson becoming free agents, there may only be room for one to return next season. General manager Scot McCloughan will have to weigh his options of what will be more of a necessity for the Redskins’ offense: a deep threat or the most reliable receiver the Redskins have.

That’s not a concern at the moment. The top priority at this time is to qualify for the playoffs, and Garçon will play a big role into whether or not that comes to fruition.

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