Washington's defense understands from years of facing him in practice that wide receiver Pierre Garçon is someone who plays the game with a physicality that can make team's back down.
Signed by the Washington Redskins in the 2012 offseason, wide receiver Pierre Garçon became the consistent face of the receiving corps for half a decade.
Not only did he appear in all 16 regular season games in four of his five years in Washington, Garçon recorded at least 80 receiving yards 18 different times. He was also the team's leading receiver in three of those five seasons. Twice he recorded more than 1,000 yards and even set the franchise's single-season receptions record with 113 catches in 2013.
Whenever the Redskins needed the tough yards, they called on the Mount Union product. He almost always delivered.
But with Garçon completing his five-year contract during the 2016 season, the 31-year-old hit the open market this past spring before quickly signing with the San Francisco 49ers. He finished his time in Washington in the top 10 in both receptions (376) and receiving yards (4,549) in franchise history. His 21 touchdown receptions are also tied for 12th most among all Redskins skill players in history.
This Sunday, Garçon returns to FedExField on the opposing sideline for only the second time in his career and first since his five-year stint with the Redskins.
"Pierre will be different because it has been five years and all I've known in the NFL in the past has been Pierre on the Washington Redskins, so it will be interesting having him on the other side – especially at FedExField," said Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins. "It will be a different experience but I guess that's the way the league works. As we've said, people move on. Change happens."
While Garçon isn't a burner by any stretch, his physicality makes him one of the league's best receivers. Entering Sunday's game, he's tied for eighth in receiving (379 yards) despite having the lowest yards per reception (13.5) among the league leaders.
Pierre Garcon has been voted by his peers as one of the top 100 NFL players of 2014. Redskins.com is celebrating his accomplishment with a photo gallery of some his greatest moments as a Redskin.
"He is still one of the top possession-type receivers there is in football," said Redskins head coach Jay Gruden. "He is really good after the catch. That's the one thing we really have to make sure [that] we tackle well when he gets the ball in his hands out in space because he can really run after the catch. He runs very good, precise, crisp routes and has got strong hands. He does all the underneath stuff. He can hit you down the sidelines from time to time so he is definitely their best playmaker."
While Garçon has twice been held under 40 yards this season, he's also had two games with at least 90 receiving yards including a 142-yard performance against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 3.
Washington knows first-hand how tough it is to stop Garçon once he gets going on the field. It will be an even tougher task this week with cornerback Josh Norman said to be sidelined for a few weeks with a rib injury.
"He's an exceptional guy, he makes plays on the ball and, as well, he runs his routes hard," said cornerback Bashaud Breeland, who will slide into the No. 1 role during Norman's injury. "It's going to be a good task, I'm all for it."
San Francisco likes to move Garçon around their offense, so if he's ever lined up in the slot it could be Kendall Fuller who gets to defend the former Redskins receiver.
"Definitely excited just to have a familiar face always battling in practice and things like that," Fuller said. "Once you get out there, it's just another number in front of you."