Eagles Wake-Up Call: Stars Aligning For DeSean Jackson

0V3J0331DeSean Jackson caught a career-high nine passes on Sunday against the Chargers. He finished with 193 yards, second only to his memorable 210-yard outburst against the Cowboys in December of 2010. It was a monster day. And it could have been much bigger.

His 37-yard touchdown was negated by an illegal formation penalty in the third quarter. And he and Michael Vick just missed hooking up on a few long bombs before finally connecting on a 61-yarder late in the third.

“That’s very frustrating, honestly. The touchdown got called back, there was one I caught out of bounds when my right foot stepped out, then the overthrown one that slipped off of my hands,” Jackson said. “But that’s part of the game. We just have to keep going and keep working. Overall, I felt I had a great game.”

A big reason Jackson was still able to excel is because he was active in the short game as well. In seasons past, it was often feast or famine, where productivity was largely tied to whether he hit on the big play. Not so much this year. Of his 16 catches on the season to date, 10 have been within nine yards of the line of scrimmage, per Pro Football Focus. Four of those grabs came behind the line as part of Chip Kelly‘s bubble-screen game. (He caught seven passes behind the line all of last year.) Kelly is dialing up Jackson’s number quite a bit on the short routes and allowing him to create, which is a big part of it.

But it’s not the only difference. Some of it relates to a change in Jackson himself.

“DeSean is a totally different football player right now,” said Vick. “There are things that he wants to accomplish in this game and things that he wants to accomplish for himself. In doing that you have to make sure you’re taking care of your business on the field. And it’s not just playing on Sundays, it’s things that you do when you’re not playing on Sundays, throughout the course of the week, and I think DeSean is starting to understand that, he is doing a great job of that and I’m proud of him.”

His boost in production over the middle is particularly telling. Jackson was targeted 28 times between the hash marks last year and caught only 15 of those balls for a 54 percent completion rate. This season he has been targeted nine times over the middle so far, and has caught every one of them, per PFF.

“He’s willing to do a lot of things and he realizes the offense can utilize his abilities,” said Jason Avant. “He’s probably our second or third best player on offense and our best deep threat and weapon as far as passing, so he has to do everything that comes with being a receiver and he’s doing that — he’s blocking, he’s going over the middle, he’s doing a lot of things that people criticized him about and he’s doing a good job at it.

“The God-given ability that he has far exceeds many people even in the National Football League. He is a talent of talents. Anything with him is all willingness and he has the belief in Coach Kelly’s offense and has the trust in Mike and he’s been doing a great job with being willing to do those things.”

The stars appear to be aligning for Jackson, who leads the league in receiving yards (297) through two weeks.

WHAT YOU MISSED

Sheil takes a thorough look at the offense’s performance on Sunday.

Mychal Kendricks, Jason Kelce just two of the names on most recent injury report.

Kelly takes ownership of late-game missteps. 

Kapadia takes a look at the safety situation. 

Snap count analysis from the Chargers game.

Lane Johnson learned some hard lessons versus San Diego.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Domo says that the type of game that unfolded Sunday will be the norm for the Eagles.

Brace yourself, because this is the kind of season it’s going to be. An explosive offense. A bad defense. A lot of 33-30 games like Sunday. Some they’ll win. Some they’ll lose. My preseason prediction of 8-8 still looks like a good bet.

If you’re looking for hope, focus on the 2008 Cardinals, who beat the Eagles in the NFC Championship Game. They managed to make it to Super Bowl XLIII with a defense that gave up 26.7 points per game.

Tommy Lawlor offers some thoughts on Billy Davis.

It is possible he will prove to not be the right guy to run the D. I’m saying things like “give it time”, but I do fully acknowledge this group may be a major problem for a couple of years and then change will be needed.

The Skins hired a veteran DC in Jim Haslett and their D has been a mess for 4 years. They’ve changed players. They’ve tweaked the staff. Haslett is an overrated defensive coach (I’m not sure why) and WAS has made some bad signings/picks. The situation was supposed to get better this year with the return of Orakpo, but somehow has gotten worse. You guys think Nate Allen is bad, but Bacarri Rambo makes Nate look like Wes Hopkins.

My point with Davis is not to have blind faith in him. Let’s give the guy at least half a season before we start to form definitive opinions. We can judge him each week, but just keep it in context. You need a decent sample size before really knowing a player/coach/team.

COMING UP

Eagles practice at 11:30. Andy Reid will speak to Philly reporters via conference call at 1 p.m.