IRVING, Texas – For a while it looked like all the big names were leaving the division. Since the start of free agency, arguably the two biggest moves in the NFC East were DeMarcus Ware from Dallas to Denver and Justin Tuck from New York to Oakland.
It looked like that trend might continue when the Eagles cut DeSean Jackson, but it doesn't come as much as a surprise that he'd sign with one of his old employer's biggest rivals. I don't know how much Jackson's joining the Redskins shifts the balance of power in the NFC East, but it certainly makes Washington's offense as intimidating as its been in quite some time.
It remains to be seen how Robert Griffin III recovers from a sophomore slump, but all of a sudden it seems like the Redskins boast the best pair of receivers in the NFC East. When he lines up behind the center in 2014, Griffin will be looking for a three-time Pro Bowler in Jackson and last year's NFL receptions leader in Pierre Garcon.
That's a pretty fantastic combination of a durable possession receiver and a dynamic deep threat. Garcon averaged 12 yards per catch on a whopping 113 receptions last year for a total of 1,346 total yards. He has averaged 13 yards per reception for his career.
Jackson's career average of 17.2 yards per catch speaks to his big-play ability. As you might have heard by now, Jackson's 35 catches of 40 yards or more leads the NFL since he entered the league. Only Vincent Jackson and Malcolm Floyd have averaged more yards per catch in that same span.
Before you flood my inbox with angry emails, don't get me wrong: I consider Dez Bryant to be the best pound-for-pound receiver in the division and one of the best five or so receivers in the league.
I don't like Bryant's supporting cast as much as Jackson's, however. Terrance Williams had a strong rookie season, but I'm not ready to assume that's the norm. I also don't know how much higher his ceiling is. The worst year of Garcon's career was more or less in line with Williams' rookie production, but Williams has not proven himself capable of producing as a team's primary receiver. I expect Garcon to once again flourish while defenses focus on limiting Jackson's big play potential. And if they don't focus on Jackson, I expect we'll see plenty more big plays – especially given Griffin's ability to buy time for himself in the pocket.
It remains to be seen if Williams can step in and pick up the slack when Bryant is being limited. All of the rookie's best games in 2013 – against Denver, at Philadelphia, at Washington – all came on days when Bryant had plenty of success in his own right. Can he produce if he's the top option? [embedded_ad]
To be fair, it's worth noting the Cowboys have a tremendous safety valve in Jason Witten. His presence in the middle of the field should make things easier on both Bryant and Williams. Griffin has a promising young tight end target in Jordan Reed, though he's obviously not at Witten's level.
It will be interesting to see how the presence of one of the league's best deep threats affects that development, however. With the caliber of receiver at the top of the Redskins' depth chart, there should be plenty of space for Reed – not to mention Washington's other receivers – to work. And that doesn't even account for the two-time Pro Bowler running back in Alfred Morris.
It might not solve all the problems that plagued their 3-13 season last year, but the offense looks likely to improve with Jackson giving the Redskins the best one-two receiver punch in the division.