Much of the focus in the coming days will be the problems the Vikings defense will be facing as Robert Griffin III makes his return on Sunday after being out of action since the first quarter of Week 2.
But perhaps the biggest difference-maker on the Washington offense is diminutive trash-talker DeSean Jackson. One of the reasons he chose to sign with the Redskins was to play with RG3 and, as many opponents can attest, there are few players with more big-play ability than Jackson.
The job for cornerback Captain Munnerlyn is going to be to stay with Jackson, a job that will be made even on more difficult if Griffin is able to scramble around the pocket and extend plays. Munnerlyn’s job won’t change that much, except in one key respect.
“The defensive line has to make some changes for quarterbacks who can run, but on the back end, it’s simple – just cover,” Munnerlyn said. “You’ve got to cover longer with a scrambling quarterback, but you’ve got to be focused on your job and cover a little longer.”
Jackson and Munnerlyn are no strangers. They’ve lined up against each other twice in their careers – when Munnerlyn was with the Panthers and Jackson was with the Eagles. To date, the battle has been lopsided in Munnerlyn’s favor.
In 2009, Jackson had two catches for just nine yards. In their 2012 meeting, Jackson had just one catch for nine yards. A petulant player – the Eagles released him rather than seeking out a trade just to make sure they were rid of him – Jackson is a notorious trash talker. One of his trademarks is to taunt an opponent he has beaten him over the top even before he gets in the end zone. He has built quite a highlight reel for immature types of reactions and responses.
But, given the ammunition he’s been given over their first two meetings, Munnerlyn is jumping at the opportunity to get ready for Round 3.
“I’ll get into it with him,” Munnerlyn said. “I just play football at end of the day. I’ve played against him a couple of times and we know each other very well. When he talks, I’m going to say something back but, I’m glad to go out there and compete with him and make my plays.”
Few players have the explosiveness that Jackson brings to the football field. In his seven seasons in the NFL, Jackson has averaged 17.5 yards per reception. Of his 388 career receptions, 114 of them have gone for 20 or more yards and 42 of them have gone for 40 or more.
As impressive as those numbers are, what he has accomplished in 2014 with the Jay Gruden offense has been even more explosive. He is averaging 20.8 yards per reception (32 catches for 664 yards) and leading the league. Of those 32 catches, nine have been for 20 or more yards and seven have been 40+ yards.
Munnerlyn has enjoyed success against Jackson, but doesn’t take his blazing speed for granted, because he can take any pass the distance at any time.
“He’s very special in the speed area,” Munnerlyn said. “He can run by you. He’s a great guy after the catch. When he gets the ball in his hands, he can make guys miss. He’s a smaller guy, but, at the same time, you’ve got to be aware of where he’s at on the field. You can’t let this guy get behind you because it’s going to be six points.”
Until the Redskins announce who their starting QB is going to be, there will be a lot of uncertainty for the Vikings defense heading into Sunday’s game. But one thing that will be a certainty is that Jackson is going to be running his mouth. It’s what he does and he does it well … and often.
Munnerlyn has heard it before and expects to hear it again Sunday. But, given his track record, Jackson may be best advised to button his lip a little bit and let his play, not his incessant smack talk, do his talking for him, because, while it can be irritating, Munnerlyn uses Jackson’s immaturity as motivation.
“It doesn’t bother me at all,” Munnerlyn said. “It helps me play better. I know he’s talking, so I’ve got make a play on him. I’ve got to go out and show him I’ve got to make plays and limit his big plays.”
So far, so good in that regard in their matchups to date. Munnerlyn is hoping that the third time is the charm and the Jackson is once again silenced on the stat sheet – even if it’s impossible to silence him on the field.
Munnerlyn owns his matchup with Jackson
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