When he is engaged and confident and feeling the groove, he can be a lethal weapon. A Pro Bowl caliber difference-maker. When he falls into a funk, his game follows suit.
The good news for Eagles fans is that Jackson has been clear-eyed this spring and summer. He has had a much lighter air about him than in years past and has been generally scowl-free. He seems happy and– most importantly for this team — dialed in.
There are a couple likely reasons for this.
For one, he has seemingly gained perspective. Hard to believe, but Jackson is now a six-year vet. He is 26, and has had his share of highs and lows in the NFL. Two high-quality seasons in 2009 and ’10 were followed by a pair of underwhelming campaigns in 2011 and ’12. He is at the crossroads, and appears to realize that his legacy is on the line.
“Honestly, always, since I’ve been playing this game I always wanted to be known as one of the best players that played this position,” said Jackson. “I just look at it as, to play wide receiver in this league there is something about you that has to be intriguing – either your size, speed, your hands, your routes. When I look at myself being a 5-10 guy, at the most 170-175, just looking back in history I don’t really see any guys of that stature and size that is able to contribute the way that I have contributed in my first five, six years in this league. I think when it’s over and said and done, the more I go out there and do the things I need to do I think I’ll go down in history as one of the smallest guys to play wide receiver to do some great things.”
Jackson will need to be at his best if he wants to keep the big pay days coming. As we have detailed in the past, the Cal product is in a virtual contract year because his base salary jumps to around $10 million next season and it is not guaranteed. Hard to see the Eagles paying him that much if his production hovers around 2011-12 levels.
He has money and legacy to motivate him. And he has Chip Kelly.
The new head coach caught Jackson’s attention by bumping him down with second and third teamers earlier this offseason. Kelly wanted to convey that every player must learn everyone else’s position on the offense, and that there will be no preferential treatment. Jackson soon discovered the importance of becoming well-versed in all positions. He better know it, because he may be asked to play it.
When Kelly was first hired, Jackson believed he would be used similar to the way receiver/running back De’Anthony Thomas was deployed at Oregon. Now that Jackson has worked with Kelly, does he still feel the same way?
“The only big difference is that I’m not really getting the ball from a running back perspective, but as far as being in motion, doing all the motions, being behind the quarterback, things like that, definitely still being used that way,” he said. “Playing in the slot. Going back and forth. Not just standing in one position and being there the whole game, so I definitely feel that him being able to move me throughout the offense and me knowing the offense and every position is definitely almost to me coming in and really coming in and learning every position, so I think he’ll be able to move me around everywhere and not just keep me in one spot, so that’s definitely a plus as well.”
Jackson is excited about how he will be used in the Kelly offense. He appears to be a little more mature. It’s always subject to change with Jackson, but at the moment he’s in a good place.
“Definitely not satisfied, still want to go out there and keep adding to the list.,” said Jackson. “I actually saw a great stat the other day: since 2008, I am number one in yards per catch since entering the NFL [he’s actually second to Vincent Jackson], so just doing things like that is actually something that I live for, not only about myself but being able to go out there and win games and hopefully bring a championship to this city that I think everybody would go crazy over.”
WHAT YOU MISSED
Vick had one of his best professional performances against Washington at FedEx Field. He is hoping to recapture the magic.
Earl Wolff might not be starting, but he’s been told that he will play in all four quarters Monday night.
Kelly talks about the collection of Ducks he has on his roster.
RGIII talks Vick, his health and even bounties.
The Eagles rounded out their practice squad by adding defensive end Brandon Bair.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Brian Billick says that Kelly’s approach won’t revolutionize the NFL.
I like Kelly and think he has some terrific offensive ideas, but I don’t think number of plays is any more of a magic bullet than time of possession. Obviously every play or second you can possess the ball, you are better off than when your opponent has it. But whether you subscribe to the Bill Parcells school of football, in which time of possession is paramount, or fall in love with the new wave that says you impose your will on the other team by running plays until your opponents’ tongues are dragging on the ground, neither method means anything without accompanying points. Without steady scoring, both philosophies are like empty calories in a diet — they fill space, but serve no purpose.
In 2012, Andy Reid’s Philadelphia Eagles were sixth in total plays (1079 on the season, for an average of 67.4 plays per game). The problem was they ranked 29th in the NFL in scoring — in large part because they tied the Kansas City Chiefs and New York Jets for most giveaways in the league with 37. Michael Vick is a scary quarterback to play against because he can hurt you in so many ways, but he’s also thrown 24 interceptions and fumbled 21 times in 23 games over the past two seasons. Nothing will bring the high-paced offense to a screeching halt quicker than a turnover.
Domo talked to an NFL scout about the Eagles’ outside linebackers.
“Outside of Connor Barwin, they don’t have one outside ‘backer that can play the position. (Trent) Cole didn’t play well last year, and you wonder the same thing about him as you do about (tight end Brent) Celek. Is he a declining player?
“And the whole switch from a hand-on-the-ground guy to a linebacker, I know there are a lot of rush linebackers who don’t drop into coverage much. But let’s see how teams game-plan him and how they get him into space and how good he is out there. If they’re going to put him in space by formation, then what do you do and how does he handle it?
Preparation for the Redskins continues. The coordinators will speak with the media in the morning. We’ll post our season predictions today.