The great thing about the NFL is that there are so many positions that every year, there is almost always at least one player who has a breakout year on every team, no matter how good or bad the team is. This is one part in a 32 part segment detailing one potential breakout player (rookies don’t count) for the 2013 NFL season on each NFL team. For the Washington Redskins, that player is wide receiver Pierre Garcon.
I debated whether or not Pierre Garcon qualified as a breakout candidate. After all, Garcon got a 5 year, 42.5 million dollar contract from the Redskins as a free agent last off-season. However, he did that without making a Pro-Bowl or even having a 1000 yard season. The Redskins took a major chance giving Garcon that kind of money, banking on his natural athleticism and skill set allowing him to break out as the X receiver in Mike Shanahan’s offense, as the #1 target out of the shadows of others in Indianapolis loaded receiving corps, with Robert Griffin leading a downfield throw based offense. Garcon was only 25 and that point and the Redskins were really expecting a breakout year from him.
Midway into the 1st quarter of the Redskins’ week 1 game against the Saints last year, the Redskins looked pretty smart. Granted it was very, very early in the season, but Griffin targeted Garcon on 4 of his first 5 throws, including an 88 yard touchdown, as Garcon had 4 catches for 109 yards and a touchdown midway through the first quarter of an eventual upset of the Saints in New Orleans, where they hadn’t lost all season in 2011. However, Garcon hurt his foot and left the game immediately following his touchdown and did not return to the game, playing only 8 snaps total.
Garcon would return for week 4 and week 5, but he would only catch 4 passes for 44 yards in those 2 games, struggling through his injury and would not return again until week 11. Garcon was still not healthy after returning, only playing in 306 of his team’s 445 snaps over those 7 games, not exactly what the Redskins were hoping to get from their #1 receiver. However, Garcon was still very productive, in spite of his more limited role, catching 36 passes for 480 yards and 3 touchdowns in those 7 games.
Overall on the season, Garcon had 633 yards on 215 routes run, good for 2.94 yards per route run, 2nd in the NFL among eligible wide receivers behind Andre Johnson. He was targeting 63 times, giving him a very impressive yard per target rate of over 10 per and with 63 targets on 215 routes run, he was by far Robert Griffin’s favorite target to throw to when he was on the field. Griffin was also very efficient when throwing to him, completing 69.8% of his passes for 10.0 YPA, 4 touchdowns, and 1 interception, a QB rating of 116.7, 14th in the NFL among eligible wide receivers. It’s clear that Garcon has a ton of upside in his role in Washington’s offense.
Garcon’s issue remains injuries as his foot is still not 100% and in addition he had off-season shoulder surgery. However, the shoulder is expected to be a non-issue and his foot should be better than it was last season. Assuming he plays close to a full set of snaps and isn’t overly limited on the field by his foot, Garcon could have an incredibly productive season. Robert Griffin is expected to throw more and run less to protect himself from injuries so the Redskins figure to pass more than the 442 times they did last year. Garcon could easily end up as one of the league’s top-10 receivers and a Pro-Bowler in 2013.