Before Thursday night, only a couple teammates had voiced their opinions publicly about DeSean Jackson and his future with the team.
But as several Eagles strolled in to Todd Herremans’ Hoops 4 Help fundraiser, they knew what the topic of discussion was going to be when approached by a small group of reporters.
None could come up with a clear explanation for why the Eagles would be looking to move Jackson, but the general sentiment seemed to be that they would move forward with whatever decision the organization settled on.
Jeremy Maclin has been Jackson’s teammate for five years, but he said he has not spoken with his fellow wide receiver since the trade rumors first surfaced. Asked if he wants Jackson back, Maclin said: “I want to win games and obviously DeSean is a very talented player. So I want to win games.”
Responding to a different question about Jackson, Maclin added: “DeSean’s a great talent. That’s undeniable. As far as everything else, he’s come a long way. He’s matured a lot in the NFL. I think that’s part of the process, but it’s not for me to speak on another man’s behalf. So like I said, whatever happens, that’s what we have to roll with.”
Riley Cooper spent last season opposite Jackson and seemed to think his teammate did everything Chip Kelly asked of him.
“He’s awesome. I’m in the same room as him every single day,” Cooper said. “We’re both wideouts. So I’m with him every day, all day, meeting rooms, on the field. He’s a great player and he’s a good friend of mine. So I want him to stay.
“I felt like he did a great job for us. You all saw him on the field. He put up career numbers and he worked hard in practice, and that’s a big thing for Chip and everyone. You’ve gotta work hard in practice for it to carry over to the game. It’s all about preparation and things like that. And he did a good job of that last year. I’m extremely proud of him. In any case, whatever happens to DeSean, it’s supposed to happen. But I don’t know what it’s gonna be.”
One theory that has been suggested is Kelly’s system can make average wide receivers look good and good wide receivers look great.
Asked about Jackson’s importance to the offense, Herremans said: “I think DeSean’s important to this team. On the other hand, I don’t think there’s one person that’s irreplaceable. I’d like to think that I’m irreplaceable, but I know that’s not the fact. The fact is what they’re trying to do here is create a system to where you don’t have to rely on just the players and who they are. You can just plug guys into the system and have success from there for many years to come.”
Do players on the team understand that?
“I think for people to actually get that, we would have to lose one of those special players and then still have success,” Herremans said. “I don’t think people would really understand that until it happens. But I know that as a coach that’s kind of the system that you want. That’s the equation that you want. You want to be able to just plug guys into your system and not worry about your players wanting to stay, wanting to leave, wanting more money or anything like that. That gives you a little bit of flexibility if your system is the reason for winning.”
Herremans was pressed about whether such thinking could be dangerous and if he thought Jackson could be easily replaced.
“There’s fast guys that come out every year in the draft,” Herremans said. “But there’s not DeSean Jacksons that come out every year in the draft. And those are the things that you have to weigh out when you’re going through this process. And so I’m just glad I don’t have to make the decisions.”
Trent Cole is entering his 10th season with the organization. He was perhaps the most supportive of any of the players in regards to Jackson.
“All I can tell you is I think he’s a good person,” Cole said. “I think he’s a really good person and he’s a great player. He’s a guy I’ll never forget. When my career’s done, to the end, that’s a guy I’ll never forget. Just the incredible plays he’s made and what he’s done for the Eagles.
“As a teammate, I think he’s a great guy. He’s always been open to me. I’ve always been open to him. I’ve always talked to him. He’s always talked to me. I consider him one of my brothers. I think he’s a good guy. He has some things in the past that everybody keeps dwelling on. But from my standpoint as a teammate and as a brother to him, I think he’s a good guy.”
Connor Barwin wrote a column for The MMQB about the dynamics of the locker room. He has only spent one year with Jackson, but didn’t seem to think the wide receiver was a detriment to the culture Kelly is trying to establish.
“I think I’m probably the wrong guy to ask that,” Barwin said. “If you guys read my article, I pretty much think everybody fits. You kind of make it work. It matters who the leaders are in the locker room, but obviously we’re all different. He was different in his way, but we won our division, we had no major problems last year. So that’s for those guys in management to decide who fits and about the culture and those kinds of decisions.”
Maclin was also asked if Jackson fit the culture.
“I guess. Like I said, they’re trying to do whatever they’re trying to do. That’s what they’re trying to do. I don’t know,” he said.
A couple things were clear when talking to the players. One, they have no idea whether Jackson is going to be back or not. And two, no outcome will surprise them.
“Anything is possible in this league,” Maclin said. “I think the organization is gonna do what’s best for the organization. Everybody knows DeSean’s a phenomenal talent. But at the end of the day, that’s not a decision that players we get to make or the city gets to make. That’s a decision that the staff gets to make. Whatever they decide to do, with any decision, I think that’s what you’ve gotta believe in. That’s what you have to have faith in.”