ASHBURN, Va. (AP) — As long as he has been coaching the Washington Redskins, Jay Gruden has never had to think about life without Pierre Garcon.
The veteran wide receiver hasn't missed a game in four seasons and is as sure a bet to catch the ball when it's thrown to him as he is to be in the lineup. Garcon has 64 catches without a drop this season, providing the rock-solid consistency to go along with DeSean Jackson's speed and sizzle in Washington's passing attack.
"I think he is our most consistent player," Gruden said of Garcon. "The best thing about Pierre is his durability and availability. He's always there. He can run every route in the route tree. He's a tough guy that can catch balls across the middle (with) strong, physical hands."
At 30, Garcon isn't producing like his younger days, but in an offense with Jackson and tight end Jordan Reed he doesn't have to. He still has 773 yards and three touchdowns and is a reliable weapon for quarterback Kirk Cousins, who needs 122 yards Monday night against a young Carolina Panthers secondary to break his own single-season franchise passing record.
Cousins believes Garcon's versatility sets him apart.
"He can do it all," Cousins said. "You've seen him catch the deep ball and run by people. You've seen him catch intermediate routes. You see him catch screens. You see him block in the run game. You see him make contested catches. You see him run over people once he catches the ball."
Cousins also said Garcon's consistency shouldn't be taken lightly. Since a foot injury cost him six games in 2012, his first season with the Redskins, Garcon has stayed healthy and been an important possession receiver for the Redskins.
Garcon brushes off the consistency as "nothing to think about, nothing to worry about" because it's his job. His start with the Indianapolis Colts playing alongside Peyton Manning, Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne paved the way for Garcon's approach, which starts in practice.
"I think there was a standard of excellence there that he knows no other way to do it," Cousins said. "He's always done it at that high level, but he's a very explosive athlete so there's also some natural ability there that you can't coach that when he does run his routes, he gets in and out of cuts in a very powerful, explosive way that is unique to him."
Garcon, a pending free agent, serves as an example to young Redskins receivers like Jamison Crowder and Maurice Harris. He would've been a perfect tutor for first-round pick Josh Doctson, but the rookie appeared in only two games and may not have enough experience to adequately replace Garcon next season if that situation arises.
If anything, this season has been a reminder of how valuable Garcon is to the Redskins as the guy to get the call on the must-catch pass.
"It's a great comfort to me — he's just a phenomenal competitor," Cousins said. "He works really hard, prepares really hard. He's a difference maker on our team. He has been now for several years. He's a guy that you're glad he's been able to stay healthy and continue to contribute."
Speed could fade for Garcon in his 30s, but his hands continue to make him a go-to receiver in his ninth NFL season.
"At the end of the day if you do something over and over you'll get good at it regardless of what it is," Garcon said. "If you swim every day, you'll get better at swimming. If you run a mile every day, you'll get better running a mile. If you catch the ball every day, you get better at catching the ball."
NOTES: Linebackers Will Compton (knee) and Su'a Cravens (elbow) did not practice Thursday. ... Punter Tress Way was limited with an ankle injury, but Gruden said he didn't expect the team to bring in insurance in case he wasn't ready for Monday night.
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