DeSean Jackson Hints At New Role With Kelly

For DeSean Jackson, change can be good.

The sixth-year wide receiver isn’t sure exactly how Chip Kelly plans on using him offensively, but he’s looking forward to finding out.

“I’m very excited about the opportunity,” Jackson said Wednesday. “Whatever the role is, hopefully being able to play multiple positions, being moved around is something I’m looking forward to as well, so I have a lot on my shoulders. I’ve got to get that playbook down. I’ve got to learn it and am looking forward to it.”

Jackson finished last year with 45 catches 700 yards – both career-lows. But the numbers can be deceiving. Because the Eagles got shaky quarterback play, and the offensive line failed to protect on downfield routes, Jackson’s opportunities for big plays didn’t measure up to previous seasons.

In some ways, he actually rebounded nicely. In 2011, Jackson let his contract become a distraction, getting benched for a game against the Cardinals and dropping nine balls in 15 games, per Pro Football Focus. In 2012, Jackson dropped only one ball and averaged 4.1 catches per game, tying his career-high.

The question going forward is: What roles under Kelly best fit Jackson’s skill set?

Some have wondered why he can’t be used more in the slot. If you’re thinking classic inside receiver, that’s not Jackson. Catching the ball in traffic and absorbing big hits is not a strong suit for the 5-10, 175-pounder. But not all slot receivers are created equal. Perhaps there is an opportunity for Jackson to line up inside, create mismatches and hit on big plays.

“Just really moving me around, keeping defenses off-guard,” he said. “I think a lot of times in the past couple years, teams really were able to key in on me and things like that.”

Below is a table showing how often he’s been used in the slot in his first five seasons. The numbers are courtesy of Pro Football Focus. The first column shows how often he lined up in the slot, and the second shows the percentage of targets that came when he was in the slot.

 
Slot %
Slot Target %
Slot Catches
Slot Yards
Slot YPR
200819.8%22.0%1733319.6
200922.6%26.1%1935518.7
201016.4%25.3%1335727.5
201116.5%22.2%1219716.4
201217.3%15.6%917919.9

As you can see, he wasn’t used exclusively on the outside under Andy Reid. In Jackson’s second season, he lined up in the slot 22.6 percent of the time. In 2010, he averaged an absurd 27.5 yards per catch while playing inside.

“I think this year coming up with Chip coming in here, with the style of play of his offense, it’s really going to help me out a lot more too as well, just because I’m going to be able to get certain looks, get the ball in my hands, do different things that we weren’t doing the past five years,” Jackson said. “That’s going to be an exciting time for myself, but at the same time, I’m going to have to be fully in shape, fully prepared and fully ready.”

Jackson has drawn some comparisons to Oregon’s De’Anthony Thomas, but those probably are off-base. Kelly explained earlier this offseason that Thomas is more of a running back than Jackson.

In his first three seasons in the league, Jackson ran the ball 44 times for 337 yards, averaging 7.7 yards per carry. But the past two seasons, he’s had just 10 carries for 34 yards, averaging 3.4 yards per attempt. Last year, Jackson suffered the fractured ribs on a run against the Panthers.

His slight frame and build will continue to be a topic of conversation. But it’s worth noting that Jackson missed just two games due to injury in his first four seasons. Last year, though, he was forced to sit out the final five. Finding the right balance between maximizing Jackson’s talent and keeping him out of harm’s way is something Kelly will have to negotiate.

And the final potential role, of course, is as a punt returner. In his first three seasons, Jackson returned 99 punts and took four to the house. Last year, he returned just one all season, and in 2011, he was ineffective, averaging just 6.7 yards per return.

The 26-year-old seems excited about the possibility of once again contributing to special teams.

“Hopefully it’ll be a little more than last year, being able to get back there and make some big-time punt returns go off,” Jackson said. “It’s still early, so we’re still trying to figure out everything.”

Jackson is clearly one of Kelly’s more dynamic playmakers. More screens, touches out of the backfield, punt returns – everything appears to be in play right now.

But we’ll have to wait a few months to find out just what the head coach has planned for the speed wide receiver.

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  • GGeagle21

    The staleness that was Andy Reid these past 2 years, is going to make chip Kelly look like the most brilliant football mind in the history of the world..Chip will be a godsend to so many of our players..You better believe that Chip will not allow DC’s to double team Desean all day, with a safety over top…when he starts making them pay for that crap, and start moving Desean all over the place then lets see how they contain DJ Kid!!!

    • cliff henny

      perfect word, staleness. gg, you seem to get an automatic down vote or two, lol. we’ve been saying for 3 yrs, team has too many weapons. not the side i’m worried about, really dont think it matters who plays qb, think we’ll put up alot of points. might take defense a yr or so to be able to hold leads

      • GGeagle21

        yes sir..I actually never even noticed that vote thing til you just pointed it out..but yeah, points are certainly going to go up on the board with what we have right now on offense,,Defense needs a draft or two to catch up…and brick makes a good point, chips is probably watching last years tape, and thinking this andy reid guy is going to make me look like a friggin Genius lol

    • BrickSquadMonopoly

      From a coaching perspective, CK must be in the twilight zone watchin game film from last season.

  • Phils Goodman

    I don’t think his role is going to be too much different. He could see more balls coming his way near the LOS though, giving him more chances to use his RAC ability.

    • ICDogg

      Yeah, I think you’re probably right about that.

    • JofreyRice

      I think his main role was to take the top off and open up Andy’s in-breaking traditional West Coast routes underneath. If he’s getting more slants or WR screens, I’d consider that a role-change; and a welcome one at that. I’d actually like to see Desean involved in any way he can be, provided his body can hold up to the touches.

      All that being said, If RAC is going to be a big part of Jackson’s game going forward, I think he’s got to run a little harder than he has, and force some more missed tackles in the open field. I don’t feel like we’ve seen a lot of that, and for as fast and elusive as Jackson is, his YAC numbers are kinda pedestrian.

      • Phils Goodman

        The offense got way less vertical last year when the O-line couldn’t hold up that long. One of Chip Kelly’s favorite pass plays is Four Verticals. CK will mix it up with Desean, but Andy already did that a bit too. It’s just a matter of degree. Remember last offseason when Vick said he and Desean were going to work on getting more of an intermediate connection?

        • JofreyRice

          Oh, sure, but the way Kelly runs vertical routes could be a lot more effective based on the context in which it’s being run. I think a lot of D’s just went into a cover 2 shell, dropped their safeties a little deeper, and kept a lid on Desean, for the most part. If Kelly can make them commit 8 regularly, Desean’s going to be doing more than just opening stuff up for other guys when he runs those deep routes.

          • cliff henny

            thats the key, 2 deep shell and mccoy and brown will be slamming it between the tackles for 7, hopefully, like gore did at SF. pinch down on that, and out the side door vick goes or quick screne to WR. at oregon, kelly used and abuse 2 deep safeties.

          • http://twitter.com/Lez215 Dutch

            Primary suckers are those teams playing that 5 man 3-4 defenses, which leave Man to Man coverage and a single safety over the top.

      • Token

        From what I can tell Celek was better at YAC than Jackson. It is a myth that Jackson is a game breaking playmaker.

        • JofreyRice

          2012 YAC stats from PFF:

          Celek – 57 Receptions, 332 YAC, for 5.9 Avg. forced 4 Missed Tackles

          Jackson – 46 Receptions, 249 Yards YAC for 5.4 Avg. forced 8 Missed Tackles

          For Reference:

          Percy Harvin – 62 Receptions, 542 YAC for 8.7 Avg, forced 22 (!!!) missed tackles.

          2011 was just a bad season for DJacc, but his 2010 season was much better in that category, where he averaged 8.0 YAC. A caveat to that is he still only forced 4 missed tackles. My point being, that those stats are probably more about burning guys after catching a long bomb than weaving through intermediate traffic and making guys miss. Not trying to hate on Desean, because I think he played much harder last year, but I would like to see a little more aggression when he’s running (within the framework of making sure he remains healthy, if that’s possible).

        • http://www.philthycanuck.com/ Adam

          I guess you missed Miracle at the Meadowlands II. But that’s only a play that might go down as one of the greastest in team history. No big deal, though.

          He’s not going to be going up and making catches in triple coverage like Megatron of Fitz might, but he is definitely a playmaker. And I’d bet that becomes a lot more evident with Chip than it did with Andy.

          • Token

            This is kind of what im talking about. Philly fans generally live for moments of flare instead of substance. I mean, that happened in 2010 now people and was ultimately insignificant. The fact that it can be called a great moment in team history kind of shows you just how much of a failure our team has been over its history.

            Numbers suggest Jackson isnt the playmaker everyone pictures him as.

          • http://www.philthycanuck.com/ Adam

            NFL rookie record for all purpose yards in 1 game
            Team record for rookie receiving yards
            Team record for receptions in a season
            7th in NFL history for 100+ yard games before turning 23

            And that’s just off the top of my head.

            Most importantly:

            NFL record for most 50+ yard touchdowns in 1 season.

            Please tell me more about how he is not a playmaker.

            Your point about the Eagles failure over it’s history is absolutely moot to me as I was talking about DeSean and said nothing about this team being great. These are the cards we’ve been dealt as Eagles fan, and if a glorified history is what you’re looking for then you’ll have to find a new team.

        • cliff henny

          celek 6-4 260,he drags guys 2 or 3 yrds, d-jax is 170 with weights in his pockets, 2 totally different players. i never understood why reid did get dj on mismatches in the slot, use out breakers so he could run up sidelines. reid just made jackson way to one demensional, and as kelly said, one demensional is very easy to defense.

          • Token

            Its because you are then putting him in traffic. Where he almost surely wont excel.

          • cliff henny

            com’on, guy is an incredibly punt returner and cant run in traffic? reaching here. give you he isnt running thru tackles, but on the move on out breaking route able to turn up field, that’s easy money all day with him. reid had him deeps or 20 yrd outs on sideline, was really little chance for RAC.

          • MAC

            Partially bc we do not have an accurate enough QB to let him run after catch and our QB does not anticipate well. Vick waits until the WR break open instead of throwing ball to a spot while WR is going into his break. This causes less YAC bc you either run out of real estate faster or it gives defenders a split second more of a jump on what is developing. Another thing in my opinion is Jackson ducks as soon as a defender gets within 5 yards of him. He shy’s away from any contact. See Arizona game right before half when he got tackled at 1 yard line and one play later Vick gets blindsided and fumbles and Arizona scoops and scores.

            I like Jackson and think he has unique skills. I do however think that we should not have paid him after what he did in 2011. He is a very good player, but when you cause the distraction Desean caused you are not a team player and no matter the ability in my opinion you should not reward his actions in 2011 with a new contract. It’s this attitude of we are such a talented team mentality from him and others that I can’t stand. Talent, speed, and other attributes alone do not win games. This team has to many guys who talk about how talented this team is and not enough that work hard to win as opposed to hoping talent, speed, etc alone will win games on Sunday’s. Hopefully Kelly is able to change the culture here.

        • http://twitter.com/Lez215 Dutch

          Jax is one of the most feared players in space in the NFL. That’s his primary role, big plays. He’s not a possession receiver capable of doing the damage underneath that we need.

          • Token

            In the minds of Eagles fans he is. But I dont think NFL teams have thought he was for years now. Hes easily defended. And again, big plays? When? The guy has 6 TDs in the last 2 seasons combined.

  • ICDogg

    If Vick is going to be the quarterback, it would be silly not to break out the vertical game at least some of the time.

    • Septhinox

      Yes, because Chip Kelly has said that he will never throw the ball downfield,

      • ICDogg

        What he has spoken of is the time that the QB needs to get the ball out. That would not be a possibility with routes that take longer than that to develop.

  • http://www.philthycanuck.com/ Adam

    I’m a big DeSean fan and I think he’s one of the most explosive players in the NFL, but as Sheil says Thomas is more of a running back/receiver whereas DeSean is a pure wide out. But you know for a fact Chip is going to find creative ways to get him the ball and that’s something I’m really excited about.

    That being said, I can’t not laugh when thinking of DeSean trying to take a hand-off between the tackles. I think he would emerge in several pieces.

  • Token

    There always seems to be some excuse for Jacksons underwhelming play.

    Since 2009 he has been on a production decline in yards and TDs. He isnt capable of being a centerpiece of an offense because he isnt very versatile He runs straight pretty well. And people tell me that his main purpose is “drawing coverage” which opens everything up. Myth.

    Im still very open to the idea of trading him if anyone would give up a early round pick based on his name.

    Im sure though that Kelly wants to play with his speed for a year. But im afraid that after another underwhelming year his value will be nothing.

    • cliff henny

      lol, he runs straight very well, the guy can cut on a dime. reid fell in love with the home run, worked early with vick when they thought he might take off and we still ran some/enough. but last couple yrs, play action was a waste of time and reid wanted vick to be pocket passer, plus line got destroyed, so was no time and safeties just rotated over. jax caught almost everything he got his hands on, too. guy has limitations, but used correctly, he’s still a major threat every time he steps on field

      • Token

        Thats a load of excuses. I hear them each year. Its just weird how the same ones pop up all the time.

        Look I get understand, hes flashy, people enjoy that. But wheres the beef? The guy runs the fly well. Hes fast. But cut on a dime? Are you talking about McCoy?

        Jackson rarely jukes anyone for extra yardage. Where are all these plays?

        He came into the league and did well right away. But as does happen sometimes he just faded. Teams found how to easily deal with him. Teams have doubled him less and less. Hes just not a force. Hes not a playmaker.

        Many Eagles fans just cant come to grips with the reality of it. People think his speed is a rare gem thats hard to come by. Guys like Jackson come into the league every season. Kendall Wright as a rookie produced what Jackson did this year, on the Titans. Torrey Smith is already a better version of Jackson.

        • cliff henny

          he can only run the plays that are called. i’m not saying he’s going to canton, but your assumption that you can release him via trade and get equal return is way off base. 4.2, 4.3 does grow on trees. he has limitations, but i’m willing to hold off a yr, see what kelly can do. reid had him so defined, i bet he was easy to cover. i personally have bigger issue with maclin, guy was scared to run over middle and doesnt command same safety respect.

          • GGeagle21

            I think what you will see of Desean under chip, will be light years ahead of anything we saw of desean under Reid..so at this point this conversation is silly…and then when you factor in the dead money you have to eat for trading Desean, this convo becomes…nvmd. to each his own. Think it would be foolish to move away from Desean before seeing what Chip can get out of him. DC’s arent dumb! they dont just give all this attention to a player that doesnt require it

          • Token

            Everyone always says this is Jacksons year.

            Ill put it to you this way. There is almost a zero chance Jackson sees the 12.5 million he is due next season. In my opinion.

          • GW.Fisher

            So I guess according to your logic Shady’s 2012 season means he’s on the decline as well…

          • GGeagle21

            Token….I notice you dont factor human elements into your football equation

        • http://twitter.com/Lez215 Dutch

          Torrey Smith has Boldin and Jones as his compliments. Double covering either of those receivers and the other two or their tight ends will burn you. Baltimore has the offensive line to provide tons of time for deep threats to develope in the Ravens pattern. ‘The 49res has a top defense, and could not lay a finger on Flacco, which I believe was the difference in the Super Bowl.

          • JofreyRice

            You mean the line with the Left Tackle that made his first start in the playoffs, the rookie runblocking LG, the massively overrated Right tackle and 36 year old center that retired before they released the confetti? Marshal Yanda’s the only real unquestioned talent on that line right now, though Osemele does look to have a bright future.

            Flacco had one of the best playoff runs in history. His line was good, but far from perfect. The 9ers laid plenty of fingers on him in the SB, his line gave up 2 sacks, 2 hits, and 5 hurries. Flacco made some amazing throws and Anquan Boldin refused to let anyone else catch the ball.

          • Token

            Boldin is a 900 yard a year WR and Jones is a 400-500 yard WR who doesnt even start. Thats whose drawing coverage from Smith? Come on people. Boldin is comparable to Maclin, Jones comparable to Avant or any other mediocre NFL WR and Pitta is Celek.

        • JofreyRice

          Haha, I think you’ve gone a little too far to the other side. No, DJacc is not irreplaceable, but if you didn’t have him, you’d have to get someone as a deep threat, and that’d cost at least a second or third rounder. This kid Markus Wheaton looks really good in this year’s draft, but he’d cost you something to go get.

    • JofreyRice

      I shared some of your previous criticism of Desean, but I thought there was a noticeable change in his demeanor and interest in 2012. I thought he responded really well to the new contract. He’s not, and probably never will be, a top 10 receiver, but I definitely value his speed. It would take a lot for me to trade him, I’m excited to see what he can do in Kelly’s Offense.

      • Token

        IMO speed can be found in the draft any given year. I think you can replace exactly what Jackson does. I personally dont think he brings anything special to the table. I dont view him as a huge threat in the open field if there are defenders he has to make miss. I dont think he is going to the Kenjon barner of the Eagles. Having him come out of the backfield will often be a wasted down IMO.

        • jabostick

          Teams still seemed to gameplan pretty specifically around him. Aside from a bad O-line taking away deep routes, I thought part of the problem was the lack of consistent TE production. Assuming Casey helps with that, and assuming the run game can get closer to 2011 than 2012, I think Djax could be a major factor again.
          And aside from his contract pouting, I thought DeSean has been tough and a competitor (more than he gets credit for anyway).

          • Token

            But you understand people have been saying this since 2009. All thats happened is hes produced less.

          • jabostick

            I understand the argument but 1) it seems a bit oversimplistic (2010 was a good year and the basic numbers skew how well he played last year), 2) Using the split that you are, I’d consider the QB situation before I’d assume DJax just turned shitty.
            I agree with you, by the way, that he isn’t the center piece of an offense (nor should he be) but I don’t think he’s as replaceable as you think he is.

          • Token

            If a team cant replace 700 yards and 2 TDs from a #1 WR there are much bigger problems than the old the field product.

            Did you realize, just to put it in perspective, Kendall Wright as a rookie appearing in 15 games starting 5 has the same number of TDs as Jackson has in his last 26 regular season starts? When you start looking through the numbers its astounding how mediocre he has been for quite some time now. Wright was on a crap offense with a garbage QB too.

          • http://twitter.com/Lez215 Dutch

            Teams have game planned perfectly to contain Jax, they don’t have those concerns about Maclin, Celek or anyone else the Eagles send out. You can see when the Eagles offense breaks the huddle, all eyes are trying to locate DJax. When Westbrook was playing, he had to be identified also and that left some opportunity in 2009 for Jax.

        • chris

          why would we waste a draft pick on something we already have?

    • http://twitter.com/Lez215 Dutch

      Actually there is logic in your post. Jax causes deep safety play the issue is not necessarily Jackson, but the receivers working underneath. By all practical purposes, the Eagles tight end and slot receivers are supposed to exploit the underneath openings caused by the two deep safeties. That begs the question, where are Avant, Maclin and Celek in the offense? Often this is negated by the shoddy play of the Offensive Line last year.

      • GGeagle21

        Dutch is spot on! Andy Reid and the other recievers did a poor job underneath, making defenses pay for the extra attention they gave Jackson. Chip will have a field day with that. Chip coaches the game in a simple way..he coaches numbers. Someone gets double teamed is so valuable to chip. The only way to stop chip is for a defense to win all the individual battles…If you dont play chip’s teams straight up, and starts double teaming players or giving them too much attentiob, he quickly adjusts on his feet, and makes you pay for what you are doing, and makes you think twice about continuing to do what you are doing..when the DC adjusts, chip counters and takes advantgage of the Defensive adjustment…That is the simplistic genius of chip Kelly. Quick thinking, to find a way to exploit and make you pay for whatever the defense does…We had 14years of Andy Reid, who in game adjustments was never a strength(even when he was a darn good coach). Now we are transitioning to the quick thinking, NOT GOING AGAINST THE GRAIN(attacking weaknesses concepts that andy ignored)…Its going to make such a world of a difference for our offense. Chip will make this game easier for every single player that played for Andy…Without a franchise QB, I expect us to have a heckuva offense

      • MAC

        And the shody QB play and inability to react to defenses playing over the top coverage. Vick needs to do a better job of hitting the underneath routes with timing and give the WR and TE room to get YAC, He throws ball after WR breaks and then hits them on target, but not in stride. That to me is one of the problems he needs to work on to help exploit the speed of Maclin and Jackson underneath.

  • JamesDDl

    It’s all about DJ.

  • joethomas215

    All I know for sure is that this is a very exciting time to be an Eagles fan. This is the best thing that could of happened for Shady, Jackson, and Mackinac(IF HE STEPS UP). We must remember that this is really the beginning of a 3 year plan. Hopefully for atleast one season we can applaud the effort and not worry about wins, plus a bad record would probably be do to QB problems and struggling D, and both would improve greatly with a high draft pick and strong off season. Go Birds

    • joethomas215

      And I think Chip takes Jordan because he gives him the play making coverage lb he doesn’t have, tho Star or Floyd looks good next to Cox

  • joethomas215

    All I know for sure is that this is a very exciting time to be an Eagles fan. This is the best thing that could of happened for Shady, Jackson, and Mackinac(IF HE STEPS UP). We must remember that this is really the beginning of a 3 year plan. Hopefully for atleast one season we can applaud the effort and not worry about wins, plus a bad record would probably be do to QB problems and struggling D, and both would improve greatly with a high draft pick and strong off season. Go Birds