Julio Jones

DeSean Jackson on Julio Jones: 'Can I get more big plays than he can?'

DeSean Jackson on Julio Jones: 'Can I get more big plays than he can?'

There’s not many people who can do what DeSean Jackson does.

One of them will be on the same field this weekend.

DeSean Jackson has had five 1,000-yard seasons, Julio Jones has had six. DeSean has over 10,000 yards. Julio has a few hundred more. DeSean has had 37 100-yard games. Julio has had 49.  

Two of the NFL’s most dynamic wide receivers will be on display Sunday night in prime-time when the Eagles face the Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

Obviously, Julio is one of the best in the league, we all know that,” Jackson said. “He’s done some miraculous things. The numbers speak for themselves. Any time you play against another team that has a big-time receiver (you ask), ‘Can I get more big plays than he can? Or can Alshon or Nelly, someone on our side.’

In his first game in an Eagles uniform since Chip Kelly banished him after the 2013 season, Jackson caught two long touchdown passes from Carson Wentz and finished 8-for-154 in the Eagles’ win over the Redskins.

Jones, who’s played three fewer seasons than Jackson, was just 6-for-31 in the Falcons’ opening-day loss to the Vikings in Minneapolis.

We know what we’re going up against and I think our defense knows as well, and I think the Atlanta defense knows who they’re going up against too,” Jackson said. “We feel confident in ourselves.

It was quite a return to Philly for Jackson, who became the third-oldest player in NFL history – and the oldest in 50 years -- with two 50-yard TD catches in the same game.

At 32, Jackson became the oldest Eagle with a 150-yard game since 34-year-old Pete Retzlaff had 204 yards against the Redskins in 1965.

He’s literally as fast as ever.

How does he do it?

I remember when I was a rookie, I worked out with Jerry Rice, and he always told me, ‘Take less hits, you’ll play a longer time,’ so I just try to take the (fewest) hits as possible,” Jackson said. “Just the hard work, dedication. Just taking care of my body. (Understanding) the tribulations throughout the season, throughout the offseason. Just staying in shape. Just doing everything I need to do to continue to stay at a high level.

Jackson keeps moving up all the all-time lists, and if he can put together a couple healthy seasons with Wentz the numbers they can put up together are kind of scary.

Say whatever you want about D-Jack, he knows how to take care of himself, he takes offseason conditioning very seriously and because of it he’s been able to play longer than most wide receivers.

Unless Pierre Garçon makes a comeback, Jackson has outlasted every other receiver who entered the league in 2008 or earlier with the exception of ageless Larry Fitzgerald.

“Just preparing mentally,” he said. “Just being one of those guys who’s been in the league a long time and just knowing what it’s going to take to play at a high level and just get the best out of your opportunity every time you get one. You get so few opportunities in this game to make plays so every time you set foot on that field make the most of that opportunity.”

This won’t be Jackson’s first time playing at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which opened last year, replacing the Georgia Dome.

Jackson had 4-for-77 from Jameis Winston playing for Tampa last October in a 34-29 loss to the Falcons.

Definitely gets very loud in there,” he said. “One of the cooler stadiums I’ve played in, being indoors, being in Atlanta, Falcons a good team. I know they’re cranked up. They obviously lost on the road last week, but it’s their first home game, so we know a lot will be riding on this game.

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Déjà vu: Eagles help Falcons relive a nightmare

Déjà vu: Eagles help Falcons relive a nightmare

The Atlanta Falcons came to Philly to start their 2018 season fresh and ended up reliving a nightmare they've been haunted by for eight months.

One play to win the game.

Throw the ball to Julio.

Nope.

"It's déjà vu all over again," Jalen Mills said after Thursday night's 18-12 win (see 10 observations).

In the same fashion the Eagles ended the Falcons' 2017 season, they gave them a loss to start their 2018 season. You'll remember Matt Ryan rolling right and trying to find Julio Jones in the end zone in the divisional round last year. Jones didn't catch that ball and came down out of bounds against tight coverage from Mills.

This time?

It was Ronald Darby on Jones ... and on the left side. One second left from the 5-yard line.

Same result.

"You lined up on 11, you know you're hot," Darby said. "You gotta lock in and make a play. Last game, my boy J-Mill made the play. In this game, I made it. That's why you have guys like us, to go out and compete. We just find a way to win."

This time, Jones was actually able to catch the ball but his momentum carried him out of bounds. Darby did a good job to stick with him and make sure he didn't land in the green.

After he made the game-ending play, Darby took off running, trying to do his best impression of Mills from last year's divisional round win.

He didn't get very far.

"I tried to run around," Darby said. "I was tired, so I couldn't run all the way down the field."

It was an exhausting game in 80-plus degree temperatures in South Philly. The last time these two teams played, it was in January.

So Thursday was a little different.

"It kind of did [remind me of last year's game]," Chris Long said. "Just hotter."

The Falcons got into the red zone five times on Thursday night but scored just one touchdown and one field goal on those drives.

The Eagles' defense put together a pretty spectacular performance. At times it bent ... it didn't break.

And on Thursday, even the last play wasn't the last play. The Eagles actually stopped the Falcons on 4th-and-goal, but an illegal contact penalty against Jordan Hicks — "I can't put our team in that situation," he said — gave the Falcons one more play with one second left.

The Eagles didn't panic. Malcolm Jenkins stressed for his teammates to regroup.

They did.

"All of us want to be the guy to make that play," Darby said. "Like, please come my way. I want to be the guy who celebrates, I wanted everybody to be yelling. Ya feel me?"

Yeah, we feel ya, Darb.

The Eagles somehow pulled off a nearly identical win against the same team eight months apart. The Falcons are going to have nightmares for a long time to come.

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Eagles vs. Falcons: 10 observations from another thrilling win over Atlanta

Eagles vs. Falcons: 10 observations from another thrilling win over Atlanta

BOX SCORE

They find a way. That’s the best thing about this Eagles team.

They did it last year, and they did it again Thursday night, muddling through some really horrifyingly ugly football to beat the Falcons in the 2018 NFL opener.

The Super Bowl champs are 1-0.

And who cares how?

Here are my 10 observations off the Eagles’ 18-12 opening-day win over the Falcons at the Linc.

1. I can’t explain Nick Foles. I can’t explain how a guy who can shred a Bill Belichick defense in a Super Bowl can look so out of sorts at home against the Falcons. But the thing about Foles is that when he has to make a play, he makes a play. There’s a reason he hasn’t lost a home game that he’s started and finished since 2013. There’s a reason he’s now 19-5 as the Eagles’ starter since opening day 2013. There’s a reason he’s a Super Bowl MVP. I’ll tell you what, I’d rather have a guy who wins ugly than one who loses pretty. Foles must have some serious internal strength to overcome such a horrific start Thursday night and make enough plays to will the Eagles to this win. Maybe it was the lack of work with the other starters. Maybe it was the Super Bowl hangover. I have no clue. But I know he wins. And really, that’s all I care about.

2. What a tremendous performance by the Eagles’ defense, especially down at the goal line. It had three goal-line stands, which is insane. Two in the first quarter and then the magical one at the end of the game. The Falcons had drives to the 1-, 3- and 5-yard lines and got three points out of it. That’s a ton of pressure to put on a defense, but the unit was brilliant when the game was on the line. Chris Long, Ronald Darby and Fletcher Cox in particular were massive Thursday night. It gave up some plays. It started to wilt late. The last couple minutes were scary. But just like Foles, it always seems to find a way. It found a way again Thursday night.

3. Here’s what I love about Doug Pederson running Philly Special II. It wasn’t to show off or be funny or show up the Falcons. It was to jump-start a stagnant offense, and it worked, leading to the Eagles’ first touchdown of the game. Before Nelson Agholor’s pass to Foles, the Eagles had netted 102 yards on 40 plays. It’s hard to be that bad.

4. I didn’t understand making Darren Sproles the centerpiece of the offense in the first half. I love Sproles, but to me he’s a change-of-pace guy, a situational guy. Not to mention, he’s 35 years old and hadn’t played a game — regular season, postseason, preseason — in 11½ months. The Eagles ran 28 plays in the first half, and nine of them involved Sproles. He was 4 for 5 rushing and was targeted five times in the passing game, catching two short passes for seven yards with a bad drop in there, too. Sproles made a couple plays in the second half as a changeup guy, which is where he’s best. There’s still a role for Sproles, but that was just too much too soon.

5. I didn’t get why Jay Ajayi had only three carries in the first half. Pederson finally got him going in the second half, and once Ajayi started picking up yards, the offense really got into a rhythm. Ajayi finally got going in the second half and really ran strong, finishing 15 for 62 with two touchdowns and a really sweet two-point conversion after the Eagles’ fourth-quarter touchdown. But the numbers don’t really show how well he ran. He ran tough. He moved the chains. He got the offense into a rhythm. I understand limiting Ajayi’s touches, but three in the first half just isn’t enough.

6. We really saw a lot of mistakes from some of the Eagles’ young players. Derek Barnett had two offsides penalties that negated huge third-down sacks by Long and Cox. Tre Sullivan got way too close to a punt, giving the Falcons possession. Dallas Goedert was unable to control a pass that was probably catchable and wound up getting intercepted to set up the Falcons’ only touchdown. Costly mistakes, and those are all promising players who you expect to have good careers, but they’re inexcusable mistakes, especially Barnett simply lining up offsides and Sullivan not getting the heck away from a live football. The Eagles have a ton of young players in the mix, and they’re going to have to grow up fast.

7. Rasul Douglas’ fourth-quarter interception really demonstrates the depth of the Eagles’ cornerback stable. Darby gets nicked and comes out of the game briefly, and Douglas takes his spot and makes a huge interception off Matt Ryan inside the 5-yard line. Darby is 24. Douglas is 23. Jalen Mills is 23. Sidney Jones is 22. They’re going to make mistakes, but this is really an incredible group of young corners.

8. Rough night for Zach Ertz, who never drops passes but had three against the Falcons, two of them on third downs that would have given the Eagles a first down. Ertz caught 5 for 48 but you just expect a guy with his pedigree to drop three passes in a month, much less a game. With Alshon Jeffery out, the Eagles need Ertz to be great.

9. Impressive NFL debut for Cameron Johnston. The rookie Aussie has a tough act to follow, trying to replace Donnie Jones — who was at the game Thursday night — but he began his career with punts of 56, 65, 58, 38, 50 and 46 yards and finished the night a remarkable average of 52.2 and net average of 50.3.

10. This was an ugly game filled with penalties and mistakes, but I thought the energy and toughness and spirit the Eagles showed after a short offseason was fantastic. It’s really not an easy thing to do, bouncing back after winning a championship and a short offseason and winning football games. It doesn’t matter how the Eagles did it, they did it, beating a potential NFC playoff team in a game with huge playoff implications. Speaks volumes for the job Pederson did this offseason guiding the team through the pratfalls of the Super Bowl hangover. This is a hungry team. This is a motivated team. And this is a talented team. It's not going away any time soon.

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