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RICHMOND, Va. -- The trick for Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins this season won’t just be moving the offense. Or scoring points. It’ll be keeping two receivers happy who are passionate, emotional -- and in the last year of their contracts.
Receivers Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson both will be free agents after the season, barring extensions. Both have been productive and both are young enough to warrant one last big payday depending on their 2016 performances. Jackson turns 30 in December; Garcon turns 30 on Monday. Both could play several more seasons.
Cousins, of course, can’t just force them the ball in order to build their stats. But if the Redskins are successful, it’s likely that both will be productive. The key will be staying productive while also winning.
Cousins said it reminds him of when he was an underclassman at Michigan State playing with senior receivers.
“I said to guys in college that I would take great pride in them having NFL careers,” Cousins said, “and it’s a point of emphasis that I would get them the ball, help them play well enough as a college player and it would give them an opportunity to be noticed and play in the NFL. The same would be true now. I want to see them have great success in this league and have long careers and certainly as a quarterback, you have a role in that.”
Garcon and Jackson both are passionate players unafraid to display their emotions. Redskins running back Chris Thompson said once that Garcon is a quiet guy, but when he hits the field, “the angry Haitian comes out.”
But both Garcon and Jackson have taken the only approach they can right now. Even if their stats impact their futures, they also can’t control what they’re asked to do. Nor can they force anyone to throw them the ball. Cousins knows his focus must be more on winning than anything and he also has tight end Jordan Reed and receiver Jamison Crowder, among others, who will be factors.
“We can just give great effort and however they want to use us is how they use us,” Garcon said. “Kirk has to throw touchdowns and get passing yards and we have to get receiving yards. We can’t control the outcome of the contract, but we can control what goes on with us between the lines.”
Both Garcon and Jackson have been in this situation before and each received a bigger deal because of his performance -- Jackson with Philadelphia and Garcon with the Redskins.
“I’m just really keeping it real right here, keeping it real simple,” Jackson said. “I don’t want to put no extra pressure on anybody, on myself, on the team, nobody. I’m just here to work and be rewarded for whatever it is. Whatever that turns out to be at the end of the year, so be it.”
They’ve both played well early in camp, with Jackson still showing his elite speed and Garcon showing excellent route running to get free -- and reminding anyone watching that he’s not just a possession receiver.
Garcon has been good enough in Washington that he has reached the end of his original deal without needing it to be renegotiated.
“I got lucky and I’m happy I got to play out the whole five years,” Garcon said. “Now I’m looking for another five years.”
And the way to do that is by putting up numbers. The coaches know that both are talented, so they don’t see it as an issue.
“We have to figure out ways to get the ball in playmakers' hands,” Redskins offensive coordinator Sean McVay said. “It’s a challenge when you do have the weapons we have. Hopefully we’ll get looks where we get them involved and get them touches.”
John Keim | www.espn.com | August 5, 2016