By Joel Scott
Special to Pro Football Guru
Has anyone really figured out what’s going on with the Philadelphia Eagles and wide receiver DeSean Jackson?
Chip Kelly’s high octane offense seems to be perfectly suited, and vice versa, for a receiver of Jackson’s talents. However, the rumor mill has been busy for weeks regarding the Birds and their six-year wideout.
Will he stay or will he go?
This past season, Jackson thrived in Kelly’s fast-break attack. Most members of the offense, including quarterback Nick Foles, wide receiver Riley Cooper, and running back LeSean McCoy, all enjoyed breakout seasons. Jackson also put up some gaudy numbers for the 2013 NFC East champions.
Jackson is considered a number-one receiver but is sometimes left out from the discussion as being one of the league’s best. Along with one season under Kelly, the 5-10, 175-pound performer also operated in the pass-heavy offenses of Andy Reid. While it is true that both coaches are offensive minded and love to put the ball in the air we have to look at Jackson’s numbers to see his real value.
This past season Jackson was ninth in the league in receiving yards (1,332). The true significance of these yards is that they came on only 126 targets through 16 games. All the other players in the top 20 in receiving yards had more targets than Jackson. In fact, Jackson tied for last in receptions (82) among the same group of receivers but still able to gain yardage.
The numbers further indicate that Jackson (16.2 yards per reception) is truly a legit number-one receiver. Jackson was only bested by Detroit’s Calvin Johnson, Cleveland’s Josh Morgan, and Baltimore’s Torrey Smith, respectively, in yards per catch among the top pass catching wideouts.
More impressively, Jackson ranked number two only behind Johnson in percentage of receptions going for first downs with an amazing 60.3 percent of his receptions moving the chains.
Jackson also tied for second in the NFL in receptions totaling 40 or more yards (8). With many teams trying to incorporate two safeties that can play in the box or run with a speedy receiver in the slot it is important the teams have a player that can stretch the field and put pressure on a defense. Jackson has continued to blow off the tops of a defense for big gains.
Let’s not forget yards after catch (YAC). Jackson was eighth in the league with a shade over 500 yards after the reception. While Kelly did not incorporate Jackson as a threat out of the backfield as Reid did, Jackson still has enough speed to make defenses nervous. While it is great to see how good a receiver Jackson really is, he is also effective on special teams. Ask New York Giants’ fans about the anxiety they feel when they see Jackson line up for a punt return in the fourth quarter.
With Philadelphia trading for running back Darren Sproles in March, as well as re-signing both Cooper and fellow wide receiver Jeremy Maclin this offseason, Jackson has been viewed as expendable. The question remains about if the current team’s makeup can be as productive as it was last season. Maybe there is not a culture fit, or his salary of ten million a year is too rich and the Eagles would like to invest more into their young defense.
Teams such as the Jets and Raiders are interested despite being wary of having Santonio Holmes and Randy Moss re-occurrences in their locker rooms, respectively. The 49ers and Seahawks have shown interest as well, but the Eagles may not want to strengthen an NFC opponent.
Whatever team is interested should realize that by trading for Jackson they are trading for a ton of talent for nothing more than what appears to be a third-round pick or even cheaper.
Joel Scott is a jack of all trades, and a master of none. A self-professed football junkie and elementary school teacher, you can follow Joel on Twitter at @JoelAScott12.