Closing out his ninth NFL season and third with the Redskins, DeSean Jackson has strung together three straight 100-yard performances and continues to serve as the league's top deep threat.
For most NFL players, hitting the 30-year-old mark means a decline in production on the football field as their bodies begin to wear down from years of play.
Washington Redskins wide receiver DeSean Jackson, however, has had some of his best games in recent memory since turning 30 years old on Dec. 1.
Starting with his 59-yard reception against the Arizona Cardinals on Dec. 4, the Cal product has collected 386 yards on 16 receptions (24 yards per catch) along with a touchdown against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Jackson has also recorded 100 receiving yards in each of the last three games, the longest stretch of his nine-year career.
Why has Jackson been able to produce at such a high level recently?
For one, he's mostly healthy following a mid-season shoulder injury. But his connection with quarterback Kirk Cousins has improved with each passing week.
"I think the Arizona game was an example where DeSean caught that deep ball and when I let the ball go he hadn't quite gotten on top of the defensive back yet," Cousins said. "You just trust that down the field he'll eventually pull away. And that's through years really of throwing with him and realizing how that plays out."
Check out behind the scenes images from Wide Receiver, Desean Jackson's 2016 Redskins Photo Shoot.
Cousins once again let loose of a deep bomb for Jackson the next week against the Eagles, one in which the three-time Pro Bowler had to adjust with a Willie Mays-style reception over his shoulder. While the ball wasn't perfectly placed, only Jackson could have come away with a catch like that.
"DeSean would've been a world-class center fielder; he adjusts to the ball like no other," Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said. "You just put it up in the air where he can see it and find it and he'll get it."
Entering Sunday's game against the New York Giants, Jackson is just 29 yards shy of his second 1,000-yard season with the Redskins. His 18 yards per reception is also tops in the NFL among players with at least 50 catches.
If Jackson records one more 60-yard touchdown reception – he has two such plays against New York in his career – he'll tie Pro Football Hall of Famer Jerry Rice for the most in NFL history at 23.
He'd also tie the NFL record for most 80-yard touchdown receptions (five) if he records such a play.
"He hasn't lost a step looks like," Redskins cornerback Josh Norman said in December. "As long as he can keep that going, keep it up, I don't see why he stops or slowing down. I don't see it. He's been a speed guy since he's been in the league …and it ain't changing. He's quick and shifty, you've got to get your hands on Desean. If you don't you're going to have a long day. He's one of those types of guys.
But Jackson has also displayed the ability to catch passes on short and intermediate routes this year, something that has caught opposing defenses on their heels as they expect him to go deep more often than not.
"Whatever it is, I'll do it to help my team win the game," Jackson said after the game against the Bears when his five-catch, 114-yard performance was highlighted by a 57-yard catch-and-run off a shallow crossing route. "That's what I'm here to do. Made some plays early on, pretty good win. We needed this win, especially coming off a game like we had last week at home on a Monday night. So we felt the opportunity and come out and play football all on one level."
No matter what happens in Jackson's future – he's set to become a free agent after the season – his first three seasons in Washington have provided Redskins fans quite a few memorable moments.
"I think a lot of people think that we haven't utilized his speed quite like we should, but I think he has had a major impact on this football team – whether he catches three balls for 80 yards or one ball for 69," Gruden said. "He doesn't have to be a guy that catches 10 balls for 90 yards to have an impact on this team. His deep threat has an impact on the defense. It opens up areas for Jordan Reed and Jamison Crowder and the backs sometimes. He's been a major influence for this football team in a good way."