Everybody knew DeSean Jackson would be a good addition for the Eagles. Yet, if what we’ve seen so far at OTAs and training camp is any indication, that will prove to be the understatement of the year.
Jackson looks dominant in this Eagles offense. Granted, it’s only practice — still, he’s hauled in numerous deep balls, been impossible to cover on 15-yard outs, is wreaking havoc up the seam and turning short, quick passes into long jaunts after the catch.
It’s entirely possible that at 32 years of age and entering his 12th NFL season, Jackson is headed for a career year of sorts, and the reason for that is simple.
Jackson has never played with a caliber of quarterback as Carson Wentz.
That’s not to say Jackson has never played with good or borderline great quarterbacks. To the contrary, he’s actually been quite fortunate in that regard, having never been paired with anything less than a fringe NFL starter for more than a handful of games in a season.
He’s also never had a quarterback with Wentz’s ceiling, somebody who possesses all the elements of a great passer — accuracy, arm strength, command of the offense — and is also in their athletic prime.
Jackson probably played with a more physically gifted quarterback in Mike Vick. But Vick was lightning in a bottle his whole career — 2010 was great until mid-December, then the Cinderella slipper came off and he was back to being an inconsistent passer who made highlight reels better, not necessarily his receivers.
Jackson also played with more accomplished quarterbacks in Donovan McNabb and Nick Foles. Yet, he was only with McNabb for one year, as a rookie, when McNabb’s best days were already behind him, while Foles doesn’t have near the ability of Wentz, which is why the Eagles preferred the latter in the first place.
Jackson caught a high volume of passes from the likes of Robert Griffin, Kirk Cousins, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Jameis Winston since then. There's some skill in that group — mostly just a lot of name recognition though.
Wentz may not have Vick’s pure athleticism, McNabb’s long track record or Foles’ Super Bowl MVP. He certainly doesn’t have the history of mediocrity like the others.
But provided he can stay healthy, Wentz combines many of their strengths in one package. His upside at this stage of his career — 26, entering his fourth season — makes him potentially the best signal caller Jackson will have played with by a long shot.
If the unmistakable chemistry the two have shown in camp is any indication, it’s really not even close (see story).
Now, when I say a possible career year for Jackson, that’s not necessarily in terms of pure numbers. It will be difficult to match his 2013 campaign of 82 receptions, 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns with Vick/Foles in the offense. Those numbers were attained in a Chip Kelly system that put running as many plays as possible above all else, including sound NFL schematics. There simply may not be enough balls to go around in a loaded 2019 Eagles offense for Jackson to sniff those totals, particularly the catches.
In fact, Jackson has eclipsed 1,000 yards receiving five times and led the league in yards per reception four times, including three of the past five season. It’s bold to claim this could somehow be his best year yet.
Jackson has also averaged 44 receptions, 744 yards and four touchdowns over the last four seasons, so if nothing else, a career renaissance seems plausible. In this offense, these weapons around him and especially with this quarterback, he should have a shot at his first Pro Bowl since ’13 at the very least.
Maybe you were already expecting that. Until I saw with my own eyes what Jackson and Wentz could accomplish together, my expectations weren’t quite so high.
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