Before the Washington Redskins started their bye week in earnest, DeSean Jackson took a chance to defend his coaches’ decision to return Robert Griffin III to his starting role.
The third-year quarterback would likely aid his own cause with a better performance and will seek that Sunday against the NFC-worst Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who continued their losing streak after another change at QB.
A handful of Washington players were reportedly not pleased that Colt McCoy was replaced after leading the team to back-to-back wins. Griffin couldn’t keep that run going in Minnesota on Nov. 2, when the Redskins (3-6) took a 29-26 defeat.
Griffin absorbed five sacks in that game and his lone interception was turned into a touchdown just before halftime. He went 18 for 28 for 251 yards and threw his first touchdown pass of the season to Jackson to help push Washington to a six-point lead entering the fourth quarter, which it blew by giving up two touchdowns in the final 13 minutes.
Feeling that a few teammates weren’t supportive of Griffin, Jackson took an opportunity at the end of a team meeting last week to emphasize the Redskins’ need for unity.
"I just wanted to stand up and let him know that I’m supporting him, and hopefully everybody else can support the situation as well," Jackson said. "It’s understandable for him sometimes to have a lot on himself to try to go out there and do little more than what he’s asked to do, but in reality we just need him to be himself."
With his team likely needing to win out to have a chance for a second playoff berth in three years, Griffin will try to exploit one of the league’s worst defenses.
Tampa Bay (1-8) is giving up 30.2 points per game, second-most in the league behind coach Lovie Smith’s former club Chicago (30.8). The Buccaneers are also near the bottom with averages of 391.2 total yards and 277.1 passing yards allowed for a coach that was known for top-notch defenses while with the Bears.
Tampa Bay’s offense ranks 29th at 311.6 yards per game, and the Buccaneers have scored 17 points or fewer in all but two of their games.
To try to fix those woes, Smith installed Josh McCown as his starting quarterback again this past Sunday after going with Mike Glennon for five consecutive games while McCown was sidelined with an injured right thumb. In his first game since Sept. 18, McCown passed for 301 yards and a pair of touchdowns while helping Tampa Bay convert a season-high 12 of its 17 third downs.
He also, however, led Tampa Bay on just three scoring drives and was intercepted twice in the final 1:50 of its 27-17 home loss to Atlanta.
"You have two choices," an emotional McCown said after the game. "You can curl up in a ball and hide and hope that it goes away and it’s over or you can do something about it. With our actions, not our words. With the way that we work, that will be the measure of us."
McCown replaced an injured Jay Cuter in the second quarter last season in Washington, and went 14 for 20 for 204 yards and a touchdown in a 45-41 loss Oct. 20.
Griffin’s only other game versus Tampa Bay was one of his best, throwing for a then-career high of 323 yards in a 24-22 road win Sept. 30, 2012. He also rushed for 36 yards and a touchdown in that victory.
Jackson had six catches for 64 yards and two touchdowns in a 31-20 win over Tampa Bay on Oct. 13, 2013, while with Philadelphia. He leads Washington with 784 yards and is on pace to top his career high of 1,332 from a year ago, his third 1,000-yard campaign in six seasons.
Washington has won two of the past three matchups with Tampa Bay but lost 17-16 in the most recent home meeting Dec. 12, 2010.
The Redskins are seeking to win back-to-back home games for the first time this season, a feat they pulled off once while finishing 3-13 in 2013.