Though the animosity slowly diminished, the dominant storyline when the Redskins faced the Eagles over the past two seasons came down to DeSean Jackson facing his former team. Much of that vitriol dwindled when Philadelphia fired former coach Chip Kelly last season. In fact, the Redskins receiver made clear he has no quarrel with new Eagles coach Doug Pederson.
"Doug Pederson is actually a good friend of mine, we got a good relationship when he was in Philly coaching," Jackson said. "I don’t have no bad taste in my mouth vs him."
Jackson and Pederson overlapped in Philadelphia for four seasons from 2009 to 2012, mostly while the receiver was scoring touchdowns and making Pro Bowls. Andy Reid was coaching the Eagles then, before the Philly brass fired Reid to bring in Kelly. Jackson and Kelly lasted just one season together, before the former Oregon Ducks coach released the vertical threat.
Certainly in 2014 - Jackson's first year with the Redskins - facing the Eagles carried extra meaning. In 2015, with Kelly still on the sidelines for Philly, the games against the Eagles still likely meant extra for DeSean, though now, with Pederson in charge, it seems Jackson only wants a win rather than some form of vengance for being released.
"No emotions," Jackson said of Sunday's matchup against the Eagles. "It's a big game for us. They're ahead of us in the division right now so a lot rides on this game right here."
For Jackson - who has an expiring contract after this season - 2016 has not been the brisk start he hoped. The speedy wideout has 18 catches for 278 yards and a touchdown while averaging more than 15 yards per catch, though he is yet to take over a game with his speed.
"Obviously being a guy in this league that’s had a lot of success you always, obviously, you want as many touches as possible. It hasn’t really went that way," Jackson said. "It's something we got to figure out as a team because we need to connect on the plays that we're missing."
There have been missing plays.
In the win over the Ravens, Washington QB Kirk Cousins missed a long connection with Jackson that could have flipped field position. In other games, Cousins has gone deep to Jackson and not connected, though some plays have resulted in pass interference penalties.
"You definitely do take pride in it," Jackson called of the increased attention from defenses.
The threat of Jackson isn't lost on Redskins coach Jay Gruden.
"He deserves the ball a little bit more," Gruden said. "He’s still a major, major threat out there that doesn’t go unnoticed by the defense, I promise you that."
Cousins knows what a difference Jackson can make.
"He’s just so talented and so capable of taking over a game and making an enormous difference in the outcome of the game that I want to be continuing to look for him and give him opportunities," the Redskins quarterback said. "And he knows it better than anyone that he can help us win and he can make a big difference in the outcome of a game."
When he was released from the Eagles, the rumor was Jackson was a bad teammate and perhaps worse. Now three years into his Redskins tenure, there have been zero incidents and a locker room full of support from teammates and coaches. Though thrust into a tough situation in 2014 as Robert Griffin III's tenure as starter came to a close in Washington, Jackson has largely said and done the right things on and off the field.
If the games against the Eagles mean a little less now, it makes sense. The circumstances surrounding his departure in Philadelphia now reflect poorly on one person, and it isn't Jackson. In 2016, after being on an NFC East winning Washington team in 2015, Jackson seems to just want to win.
"As long as I feel like I’m doing my job and getting open and beating guys, when my matches are called, I feel like I’m doing the best I can," he said. "Hopefully they’ll come and we’ll hit them."
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