Jackson goes from castoff to decoy
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 firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @bobgrotz
DeSean Jackson has been used more as a decoy than a deep threat by the Redskins this season.