Jack­son goes from castoff to decoy

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - Bob Grotz Colum­nist

PHILADEL­PHIA >> The con­fer­ence call sched­uled for noon be­gan at 12:01 p.m. Not a big deal ex­cept the guy on the other end was DeSean Jack­son, the King of Late dur­ing an en­ter­tain­ing six-year ca­reer with the Ea­gles.

Back in the day Jack­son was sus­pended a game by Andy Reid fol­low­ing a pat­tern of late­ness that in­cluded miss­ing a meet­ing be­cause his alarm didn’t go off. Not much of an ex­cuse for a cat who lived a cou­ple of blocks from the train­ing com­plex.

Al­most as sur­pris­ing as the punc­tu­al­ity was Jack­son’s will­ing­ness to do the call with Philly-area me­dia Wed­nes­day. If Chip Kelly still was head coach of the Ea­gles, guess what?

“I never re­ally had hard feel­ings to­wards Philadel­phia be­sides be­ing re­leased,” said Jack­son, in his third year with Washington. “Who­ever re­leased me, that’s dif­fer­ent. But I guess he’s not there no more. So it’s never re­ally been hard feel­ings to the city or the team or the or­ga­ni­za­tion but things hap­pen and we move on. I’m blessed to still have an op­por­tu­nity to be play­ing at a high level and hav­ing a job.”

Un­less we’re miss­ing some­thing, the most elec­triy­ing player in the his­tory of the Ea­gles has mel­lowed. What changed? Sub­tly, just about ev­ery­thing.

Jack­son has a baby boy that he says has “ma­tured him.” Jack­son is get­ting older, his 30th birth­day ar­riv­ing next month. The guy who couldn’t seem to sit still, who could take the ball to the house from any­where on the field in any phase of the game en­joys fish­ing — not that there’s any­thing wrong with that.

“It’s kind of coun­try out here,” Jack­son said. “We’re in Vir­ginia so there’s re­ally not too much to do as far as go­ing out or things of that na­ture so I kind of just got into that the last off­sea­son. I went out a cou­ple of times with a buddy or two of mine. We were just re­lax­ing. It’s kind of com­pet­i­tive, too. Some­thing about the fish, they don’t al­ways bite. But hey, it’s just one of those things where you just go out there on the wa­ter and just re­ally re­lax and en­joy life. When you’re on the field in this busi­ness and you’re work­ing so hard, some­times to be able to get out into na­ture and just feel the breeze, look at the wa­ter, the sun­set drop, all that type of stuff, that’s some­thing that kind of just kind of caught my eye.”

You can’t make this up, Ea­gles fans.

Right now the fish aren’t bit­ing for Jack­son. Though he leads the Bur­gundy and Gold with a 15.4 yards-per-catch av­er­age, he’s fourth among the re­ceivers with 18 catches. His only touch­down came on a 46-yard play.

Quar­ter­back Kirk Cousins seems more com­fort­able get­ting the ball to Pro Bowl tight end Jor­dan Reed, who leads the squad with 33 re­cep­tions and two touch­downs, Pierre Gar­con (22 catches, 1 TD) and Jami­son Crow­der (21 catches, 2 TDs). The emer­gence of Reed and Crow­der has meant fewer op­por­tu­ni­ties for Jack­son, who has be­come a decoy.

“He’s al­ways had speed, he still does,” Washington coach Jay Gru­den said. “You look at the Cleve­land game, he had one catch for five yards but got two pass in­ter­fer­ence penal­ties, which was 80 yards of of­fense. We missed a cou­ple big, big-time op­por­tu­ni­ties to get him the ball down the field. His num­bers aren’t where he’d like them to be or where we’d like them to but he still has that top-end speed that should scare de­fenses.”

The Ea­gles have con­cerns. Jack­son is 2-1 against them with 13 catches for 283 yards (21.7 av­er­age) and one TD. The Ea­gles typ­i­cally roll a safety to­ward DJack. Not to bash the sec­ondary but there isn’t a player back there fast enough to keep up with Jack­son one-onone.

“He’s still fast, he can run,” said Ea­gles head coach Doug Ped­er­son, an as­sis­tant with the Ea­gles when Jack­son played for them. “That’s the thing you see on film. And just throw on his high­light reel and you’re go­ing to see the ex­act same re­ceiver that we had here. He and the com­ple­ment of Jor­dan Reed and Garçon and th­ese guys have opened up things for them of­fen­sively. But DeSean is def­i­nitely a deep threat and some­one you’ve got to watch out for.”

Jack­son still has episodes of mood­i­ness. Last week he ex­ited the locker room with­out chat­ting with the me­dia im­me­di­ately af­ter Washington beat Bal­ti­more, 16-10, for its third straight vic­tory.

Jack­son was tar­geted seven times but had three catches for 35 yards.

“It’s go­ing how it’s go­ing right now,” Jack­son said. “I guess what you’re see­ing on film is what you’re see­ing. We’re work­ing, we’re try­ing to do ev­ery­thing we can, stay pa­tient and hope­fully con­nect on some of them. We need a lit­tle more of that added to our play right now. Once we con­nect we’ll be in a lot bet­ter shape in th­ese games in­stead of kind of strug­gling and barely win­ning the past cou­ple games.”

Jack­son en­ter­tained a ques­tion about his fu­ture be­yond this sea­son. Un­less he gets the fran­chise tag, which is un­likely con­sid­er­ing the sta­ble of re­ceivers Gru­den has, he’ll be a free agent. The Ea­gles need some­one to stretch the field, right?

“You never know how things will turn out,” Jack­son said. “What­ever God’s call­ing is I’ll be blessed to be wher­ever it is. Hope­fully it’ll still be here in Washington and not have to re­ally worry about that but you never know how this in­dus­try, how this busi­ness turns out.”

You don’t know ... es­pe­cially with Jack­son.

To con­tact Bob Grotz, email bgrotz@21stcen­tu­ry­media.com; fol­low him on Twit­ter @bobgrotz

MATT ROURKE — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

DeSean Jack­son has been used more as a decoy than a deep threat by the Red­skins this sea­son.

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