Patriots: Containing DeSean Jackson Key vs. Redskins


The 7-0 New England Patriots will look to continue their undefeated ways this Sunday, as they host the 3-4 Washington Redskins. Washington is showing some nice pieces on both sides of the ball, but they appear to be a year or two away from being serious contenders. The Patriots however, are rolling, and appear to be the best team in the entire NFL.

Right now, the Patriots are a well-oiled machine who should be able to handle the Redskins with ease. Vegas making the Patriots 14 point favorites in this game, backs this up greatly. Nobody is giving the Redskins a chance in this one, and for good reason. That being said, this is the NFL, and anything can happen on a given Sunday.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is going to tear apart the Redskins secondary. He is playing at an MVP-caliber level, and the Patriots’ league-leading offense is showing no signs of slowing down. Washington has been solid against the pass this season, but it is mostly on the strength of their pass rush. Their secondary is extremely vulnerable, and I expect Brady to be able to pick them apart with relative ease.

If Washington expects to have any chance in this game, they are going to have to put some points on the board. For that to happen against the Patriots eighth-ranked scoring defense, quarterback Kirk Cousins is going to have to look for the big play. Fortunately for the Redskins, their number one big play guy looks to be returning this week.

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DeSean Jackson has not played since Week 1, as he has been sitting out with a hamstring injury. He is currently listed as questionable to play, but Jackson did participate in practice all week. He is generally expected to suit up for the Redskins against the Patriots.

With incredible pure speed and athleticism, Jackson is one of the best pure deep receivers in the entire league. Throughout his career, Jackson has shown a consistent ability to beat the defense deep, pretty much regardless of who is defending him.

If the Redskins are going to keep this game competitive, Jackson is going to have to make an impact deep in the Patriots’ secondary. Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins has shown improvement the last two weeks, and he could make some noise against a potentially exploitable Patriots’ secondary. He certainly has the ability to make some plays, and getting Jackson involved will be a must.

With Jackson being such a dangerous component of the Redskins’ offense, how will the Patriots go about defending him? The way I see it, they have two options. First, they can simply line Malcolm Butler on him throughout the contest, challenging the Super Bowl hero to defend arguably the best deep threat in the entire NFL.

Butler is far from a finished product, but he has shown some nice ability this season. After going from undrafted rookie to championship hero last season, the Patriots are showing a ton of confidence in Butler. Essentially, Butler has been their replacement for Darrelle Revis this season. Obviously, he is not on the level of Revis, but the Patriots are lining Butler up on an island, and he is not killing them.

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The Patriots could also defend Jackson with number two corner Logan Ryan, who typically gets strong over-the-top safety help from Devin McCourty. With all due respect to Butler, I think having the double team on Jackson is the better play.

First of all, speed is clearly Jackson’s game, and Ryan typically defends speed receivers better than big and physical pass catchers. But even more important, having McCourty backing him up on all deep passes gives Ryan the ability to play aggressively and jam Jackson off the snap. Jackson has shown the ability to out-run double coverage in the pass, but McCourty is one of the best coverage safeties in the entire NFL.

I would take my chances of McCourty staying disciplined and not allow Jackson to destroy them deep.

Putting the Ryan/McCourty combo on Jackson leaves Butler to defend Pierre Garcon on an island. Garcon has some deep ability, but nothing of the caliber of Jackson. Butler has shown a nice combination of speed and strength this season to go along with his impressive ball skills. I think Butler could hold Garcon down on his own, allowing the Patriots to put more attention on Jackson.

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Big plays must be aplenty for Washington if they expect to compete in this game. Taking away their most explosive player is the key for the Patriots, and as long as he plays, Jackson is clearly that player.