Jackson wants the ball more as Redskins host Eagles

BY foxsports • October 14, 2016

ASHBURN, Va. (AP) DeSean Jackson wants to win. He also wants the ball.

The Washington Redskins have won three games in a row, but their top wide receiver would like quarterback Kirk Cousins to throw to him more often beginning Sunday against his former team, the Philadelphia Eagles.

''I'm a wide receiver and I've got to go run my route and have to have an assist from my quarterback in order for me to do well. Hopefully that assist will come around,'' Jackson said. ''I just want to earn whatever it is I'm getting paid. I want to earn it. I want to go out there and produce.''

Jackson has 18 catches for 278 yards and a touchdown through five games, and Cousins has thrown his way 32 times. Redskins coach Jay Gruden said it's a challenge for Cousins to spread the ball around with so many weapons but acknowledged that he'd like to get Jackson more involved.

Gruden joked that Jackson might stand outside his house at 5 a.m. with a baseball bat demanding the ball, and the coach wouldn't blame him.

''He deserves the ball a little bit more,'' Gruden said. ''But I'll tell you what he does do - he dictates a lot of the coverage, which does open it up for other people.''

Especially in a contract year, Jackson doesn't just want to be a decoy, even in an offense that has another top receiver in Pierre Garcon and tight end Jordan Reed. Cousins, who has seven touchdowns and five interceptions so far, said it's on him to balance the offense and go through his reads but that ''good things happen'' when he gets the ball to Jackson.

Good things are happening for Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz early in his NFL career. The No. 2 pick out of North Dakota State is far less experienced than Cousins but has done a similarly good job of sharing the love, as nine different Philadelphia players have at least four receptions.

''He's very mature for his age,'' Eagles coach Doug Pederson said. ''He has a good feel and command for the huddle. And guys, even on this team that were probably doubting the decision early in the season, have really bought into not only Carson Wentz but have seen the way he prepares and the way he handles himself during the week.''

A big NFC East game on the road against Josh Norman and the Redskins (3-2) is the next big test for Wentz and the Eagles (3-1). Washington is coming off a 16-10 win over Baltimore. Philadelphia is coming off a 24-23 loss to Detroit.

Some things to watch for when the Eagles visit the Redskins on Sunday:

THE BIG V: Eagles rookie Halapoulivaati Vaitai will make his NFL debut as the starting right tackle in place of Lane Johnson, who was suspended 10 games for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing drugs. Vaitai, a fifth-round pick from Texas Christian, was inactive the first four games, but he impressed Pederson with his work in practice against Philadelphia's heralded defensive line.

''Smart kid, athletic kid, strong kid,'' Pederson said. ''He swallowed up a lot of defensive ends in college. The football intelligence, the IQ is there.''

Vaitai's 14-letter first name is the longest in franchise history. It's a little tough to pronounce, so Pederson calls him ''Big V.''

''Got to step up,'' Vaitai said. ''They depend on me, so I'm going to give everything I've got.''

SPECIAL K: Matt Jones is still the Redskins' top running back and will get the majority of the carries. But undrafted rookie Robert Kelley should continue to get a bigger role in the running game and could be a change of pace mixed in with Jones and third-down back Chris Thompson.

''He seems to always make productive runs and rarely has negative runs,'' Cousins said of Kelley. ''I have a lot of confidence in him and he continues to seem more and more comfortable each week.''

BREE AND EASY: Norman has been on an island more than usual with No. 2 Washington cornerback Bashaud Breeland missing the past two games with an ankle injury. Breeland and Dashaun Phillips (hamstring) would shift Quinton Dunbar, Greg Toler and rookie Kendall Fuller back into more comfortable roles and give the Redskins' secondary some much-needed depth.

''It's a good problem to have when you have guys that can cover - a lot of them,'' Gruden said. ''We've been on the other side of that where we haven't had enough. Now we have a lot of healthy bodies that are good players that can cover, and I don't mind putting anybody out there at any given time.''

RUNNING OPTIONS: The Eagles have four running backs who could get the ball on any series. Ryan Mathews leads the team with 146 yards rushing, but he's averaging only 3.3 per carry. Darren Sproles (4.0) and Wendell Smallwood (4.8) each have 96 yards and better averages.

Kenjon Barner leads with a 6.1 average and has 86 yards. All have scored TDs this season, though Sproles' was on a catch-and-run.

In the loss to Detroit, Smallwood and Barner didn't get a carry after combining for 25 runs and 121 yards in the previous game.

''They do give us a little bit of a burst, and give Darren and Ryan a rest,'' Pederson said. ''We'll just have to see as the game unfolds. But I would like to use them a little bit more.''


AP Pro Football Writer Rob Maaddi in Philadelphia contributed to this report.


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