Pierre Garcon won’t match Dez Bryant’s leaping ability. And although he’s plenty fast in his own right, he won’t equal DeSean Jackson’s speed, and he’s not nearly as versatile as Randall Cobb, or Tavon Austin eventually. But he matches or exceeds them all in a category which is more difficult to define and place: importance.
The Washington Redskins haven’t won a game yet this year, while the Oakland Raiders have. Go ahead and take a few minutes to process that.
In hindsight, the Redskins slumping and plodding along to begin this season isn’t especially surprising, with their quarterback who spent the offseason recovering from multiple knee ligament tears still a shell of himself. Three straight losses at the beginning of a season creates the illusion of a mountain that’s far too daunting. The task of digging out from the hole beneath that mountain becomes more difficult with each loss, but this is the same team that lost three straight games between weeks seven and nine last year, and taking that further, they dropped four out of five in the same stretch. Then all they did was win seven consecutive games to clinch the NFC East. See, easy.
Such a Herculean feat was made possible last year by Garcon, and as Griffin’s health continues to improve along with the connection with his top receiver, hope remains. For Griffin and Garcon, the fit lies in athleticism multiplied.
Garcon plugged through an injury of his own last year, missing six games with a troublesome toe. But when he was on the field, the Redskins only lost one game. Here’s why:
- Of Griffin’s 207 pass attempts during games with Garcon healthy, over a quarter of them (26.5 percent) were directed at the former Colt.
- When Garcon caught those balls, he averaged a gain of 17.6 yards.
- And of his 633 total yards in 2012 despite that missed time, 325 of them (51.3 percent) were gained after the catch.
That last number is the most important for the Griffin-Garcon football friendship. Often as the target when the defense bites and is frozen by the read-option, Garcon is given the ball in space and asked to create with his straight-line speed. That’s what’s led to such a high percentage of YAC compared to his overall yardage. He’s able to consistently accumulate extra yards by being given the ball in space. For perspective, Wes Welker led the league in YAC last year with 702 yards, but the final percentage of his overall yardage was only slightly higher than Garcon’s (51.8).
One of the defining images of RG3′s rookie season (aside form, you know, his knee combusting) was his 88-yard touchdown pass to Garcon in the first quarter of his first game. It’s a throw that briefly led to Griffining, because them kids with their web cameras thought it was cool. But notice something else: it was also a pass that traveled only 17 yards through the air, while Garcon trucked the rest of the way.
This year it’s been much of the same, just with more losing. It’s a damn shame Garcon can’t play cornerback, or pretty much any defensive position.
Griffin has leaned on Garcon even more, targeting him 37 times over just three games (an absurd 12.3 targets per game), and they’re converting those targets into catches at a 62.1 percent rate. He’s fifth in YAC with 127 yards, and predictably Garcon leads the Redskins in catches with 23 and it’s not close, as Santana Moss’ 15 receptions are far in the rear view. That reception total also ties him for fourth overall in the league, only five catches behind leader Julian Edelman (seriously). Keep looking at that catch total for a second, and remember that in 2012 he had 44 overall. In three games he’s already halfway to that number.
That’s how important Garcon is to Griffin and the Redskins’ offense. Toss in his 280 receiving yards (143 of which came in Week 2 against the Packers), and Garcon is setting a pretty obscene pace through nearly a quarter of the season: 122 receptions, 197 targets (there were only three receivers with more than 190 last year), and 1,493 receiving yards.
Offensively for the Redskins, attempts to avert disaster have run through Garcon. If he stays healthy, that’s not about to change.
Pierre Garcon ran track at Norwich University, where he ran a 10.6 seconds 100 meters and a 21.7 seconds 200 meters. Is there a faster receiver in the NFL? Let us know what you think on Twitter using the #FanEnough hashtag.