For a while, it looked as if Pierre Garcon was done for the season because of the foot injury he's been dealing with all year. Reports suggested he would give it a go after the bye week, or be shut down. Luckily for the Redskins, he came out after the bye and was healthy enough to continue. He's provided a much needed spark to the offense and offers rookie quarterback (and yes, he is still a rookie believe it or not) Robert Griffin III a legitimate number one, go-to target in time of need.
But what is it that Garcon brings to the table that no other Redskins receiver has? He's demonstrated that he can consistently beat his defender and get open with solid separation. Lets look at the film.
Garcon is matched up against the Cowboys biggest free agent acquisition, Brandon Carr, in press man coverage.
Garcon takes a few stutter steps before a large step outside to fake an outside route. This forces Carr to open his hips outside so he can turn and run to keep up with Garcon.
But Garcon cuts back inside and flashes his elite burst to fly past the flat-footed Carr.
Garcon catches the ball on the Cowboys 15 yard-line, but doesn't finish there.
He's able to gain an extra nine yards after the catch before being brought down at the Cowboys six yard-line. We'll come back to his yards after catch ability later on. The point I want to stress is how he left Carr, who the Cowboys just gave a five-year, $50 million deal with a reported $26.5 million of that guaranteed, in the dust with ease. I haven't seen any other Redskins receiver have an ability to beat a guy in press coverage like that with any consistency.
Here's another example that comes from our Monday night victory over the Giants.
The Giants are playing zone coverage in the red zone. But Garcon uses that same outside fake move to break inside the zones.
He's able to cut back inside and accelerate through the cut to gain separation from the defender.
Garcon is able to swat away any attempt at a jam from the defender.
Garcon finds himself between two zones, but Griffin was looking for tight end Logan Paulsen on the other side.
But it's not all about beating a jam, Garcon also runs good routes to get himself open.
Initially, Garcon is going to take the defender outside before cutting inside as if he's running the slant/post route we've seen all year long from the Redskins off play-action. But then he will cut back outside, undercutting the defender to get open along the sidelines.
The corner is giving him some cushion as he breaks inside.
But as soon as the defender is committed to the inside route, Garcon cuts beautifully back outside. He's very agile and quick throughout his cuts, which allow him maximum separation.
At this point in the route, the corner has his back facing Garcon, who is accelerating towards the sideline.
Its always helpful when your receiver can go up and grab the ball for you. Garcon makes a spectacular grab that Griffin put a little too much on the throw.
Speaking of spectacular grabs, remember the 59-yard touchdown by Garcon against the Cowboys? That was another spectacular grab.
Garcon is at the top of the picture running the deep in route.
Garcon splits the gap between the linebackers and the safety in the middle of the field. Santana Moss occupies the other safety while the corner originally covering Garcon drops back into 'quarters' coverage.
Garcon pulls off that highlight reel catch with terrific control of his body while in mid-air.
He shows off his acceleration and speed to take that catch and turn it into a 59-yard touchdown. His burst, acceleration to top speed and ability to cut at speed give him a unique ability to gain big yards after the catch that no other Redskins receiver has.
But that play is becoming a favorite of Kyle Shanahan. Here it is against the Giants from Monday night.
Does this look familiar at all? Its the same play, but this time its run against a 'Tampa 2' scheme.
Once again, Moss distracts defenders with his vertical route down the seam, leaving Garcon in space.
When Garcon secures the catch, he has three Giants defenders around him.
But Griffin's throw is perfectly placed, allowing Garcon to catch and continue running at full speed. He runs between two defenders on his way to the sideline.
Garcon is eventually brought down around the Giants 14 yard-line with a big chunk of yards after the catch.
Those yards after catch are a huge part of the reason the Redskins paid him so much money. From his 357 receiving yards so far this year, 225 have been after the catch. That is massively significant for the Redskins, who will need it to continue this week against the Ravens if they want to continue this push for the playoffs. But if Garcon plays, they have a good chance. When Garcon is in the team, the Redskins are 5-1, without Garcon the Redskins are 1-5. His contribution is extremely valuable to the Redskins hopes of winning.