Zac Boyer will be entering his third season covering the Washington Redskins for The Free Lance-Star this fall. Make sure to follow Zac on Twitter (@ZacBoyer) for the latest updates or e-mail him with any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
With Pierre Garçon Back, Redskins Able To Keep Fighting, Moving Forward
ASHBURN – The ball spun in a tight spiral, skipping over the pock-marked turf, with Pierre Garçon standing above it, pumping his fist.
These were the plays the receiver was signed to make – the big plays, the chain-movers, the game-winners. These were the plays Garçon was missing earlier this season, prevented from playing because of a foot injury.
As Garçon stared down at the ball, spinning near midfield, the roar of the FedEx Field crowd meant nothing to him. Nothing, in fact, meant anything to him; his eyes were transfixed on the nose of the ball, his brain wrapped around the moment.
He gained 17 yards on a reception with a little over two minutes remaining on Monday night, wasting the New York Giants’ final timeout with another first down. The Redskins would shortly win the game, 17-16, moving their winning streak to three games and keeping their hopes of a postseason appearance alive.
Garçon finished with eight receptions for 106 yards and a touchdown, an eight-yard grab in the third quarter that provided the tying points. Afterward, asked to explain his state of mind as he stood at the 41-yard line following that conversion, Garçon let out a signature chuckle and beamed his bright smile.
“I’m just chillin’, but I’m chillin’ out there on the field, man,” Garçon said. “I’m just having a good time, really.”
A Spark On The Field
The Redskins signed Garçon to a five-year, $42.5 million contract in March, making him their top priority in free agency. The team wanted a marquee receiver to pair with the quarterback it planned to take in the NFL Draft a little over six weeks later – Robert Griffin III, as it turned out – and Garçon had shown flashes of brilliance during his previous four seasons in Indianapolis working with Peyton Manning and Reggie Wayne.
“We really liked him on tape, but having him in camp and stuff, just being able to see everything that he could do, we were really excited about him,” Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said. “That’s why I think it was frustrating for all of us that he wasn’t able to [play]. He had a legit injury and it took a while, but it was something we were waiting for.”
Garçon’s debut in the season opener at New Orleans went about as well as he, or anyone with the Redskins, could have expected. He caught four passes for 109 yards and a touchdown – an 88-yard catch-and-run on which he displayed his speed, his breakaway ability and his knack for churning out yards after making the reception.
That same play, though, doomed Garçon. He sustained a unique injury – a torn plantar plate in the second toe of his right foot, which, perhaps fittingly, is more common amongst sprinters and shot putters. He sat out the next two games, but tried to deal with the pain in a brief, two-game return.
It didn’t work. Upon the recommendation of two physicians, Garçon was inactive for the next four games, returning only after the Redskins’ bye week in mid-November.
He caught three passes for five yards in his return against Philadelphia on Nov. 18, then broke out with four catches for 86 yards against Dallas, including a 59-yard touchdown reception on which he again broke free from pursuing defenders.
“I think he’s demonstrated the last couple of games exactly what type of wide receiver he is, both in the running game and the passing game,” head coach Mike Shanahan said. “We’re glad to have him.”
Marching To His Own Beat
A sixth-round draft pick by the Colts in 2008, Garçon played three seasons at Mount Union, a Division III power which won national championships during his sophomore and junior years.
“He’s a boisterous player, but he’s not boisterous in his nature,” said Larry Kehres, the head coach at Mount Union. “But I’ve thought that once he gets his chance, there would be no holding him back.”
Garçon’s focus and intensity has been a subject of chiding, tight end Logan Paulsen said, because of his reserved personality. Griffin has also made passing references to the receiver’s attitude, remaking Wednesday that Garçon “walks to the beat of his own drum – and it’s a different drum.”
Whatever pace that is, it has the Redskins moving forward.
“It’s just playing football and being in the zone,” Garçon said. “I’m just excited.”