- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 14, 2016

ASHBURN — As the Washington Redskins took the field for day one of mandatory minicamp on Tuesday, all eyes were fixated on the speedy DeSean Jackson, back with the squad after missing the majority of voluntary offseason workouts over the past three weeks.

Starting quarterback Kirk Cousins wasted no time in targeting the 29-year-old star wide receiver.

After Jackson blew by second-year cornerback Quinton Dunbar in the backfield, Cousins launched him a deep ball and connected on what would be one of his longest completions of the day.

An emphatic Cousins turned toward the media gathered on the practice field sideline with arms raised high and barked a familiar quip: “You all like that? You all love that!”

The sequence was just one of many which highlighted a noticeably heightened level of energy, competitiveness and confidence that pervaded both offensive and defensive units all afternoon.

“It’s awesome seeing that from [Cousins], but at the same time as a defense we’re like, ‘Man, [forget] this guy,’” inside linebacker Will Compton said. “You’re ready to give it back and make a play. You’re just having that good, competitive energy back and forth. It’s fun man, it makes you want to come out here more.”

SEE ALSO: Redskins tight end Jordan Reed expected to miss minicamp with ankle injury

For Cousins, currently in the midst of his first complete offseason leading Washington’s offense, the high-intensity back-and-forth is a welcome sign.

“I think all these guys are competitors and the game matters to us. It’s not a hobby it’s a job,” he said. “And, even if it’s practice in June, we have a blast and we compete and I think it’s a good quality to have as a team.”

The return of Jackson, who declined to speak with reporters, also proved a catalyst in raising the level of play overall — especially for high-profile cornerback Josh Norman, who covered the talented receiver on a handful of downs on Tuesday.

Norman, who, along with Cousins, was disappointed in Jackson’s absence on the final day of OTAs last Wednesday, recognizes the impact Jackson has in helping to improve the team on both sides of the ball.

“As you saw today, if you let [Jackson] loose he’ll get past you, that’s pretty much what it is. I mean, he’s got world-class speed,” Norman said. “I’m glad to be part of this team and go against him every day because it’s only going to make me better.”

“[Jackson]’s a great player and he’s a difference maker,” Cousins said. “We’ve told him that, he knows that. So, when he’s here, our offense is able to function at its highest potential.”

Weapons not at Cousin’s disposal Tuesday, however, were seasoned tight end Jordan Reed, out with a twisted ankle sustained last week, and rookie wide receiver and first-round draft pick Josh Doctson, who is still experiencing minor tendonitis on his left Achilles’ tendon, according to coach Jay Gruden.

With the exception of a small scuffle after a play between rookies Ejiro Ederaine and Kevin Bowen, the day’s intensity also produced some light-hearted and entertaining trash talk between both sides, something Gruden embraced with a smile.

“You know it’s hard sometimes because we’ve got a lot of good trash talkers,” Gruden joked. “Kirk kind of eggs it on a little bit when he gets excited. I think he just gets so fired up sometimes when he makes a good play. … Overall, it’s fun. We want them to work hard, we want them to play hard, but we also need them to have fun and enjoy going out there.”

The Redskins conclude mandatory minicamp on Wednesday afternoon, marking the last offseason action before the team reconvenes in Richmond for training camp on July 28.

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