It’s Time to Pay DeSean Jackson
Before the Eagles bumped off Houston nearly two weeks ago, I engaged in some friendly debate with my co-host, Joe DeCamara, on 97.5 The Fanatic’s Eagles pre-game program about showy receiver DeSean Jackson. [SIGNUP]
My worthy opponent cited statistics dating back a couple seasons that reinforced the somewhat popular notion that Jackson was inconsistent and unreliable. He referred to games during which Jackson managed a paltry one or two receptions. Meager receiving totals. No trips to the end zone. Every point DeCamara made was valid. Jackson can indeed disappear. He has games in which he barely shows up. He’s small. He’s light.
If you don’t believe that Jackson deserves a gigantic contract, with a fat signing bonus, escalator clauses, bonuses and a unicorn, pop in a tape of Sunday night’s game with the Cowboys and witness the truth. Jackson is one of the top receivers in the game, and he puts inordinate pressure on defenses with his speed and gamebreaking abilities. The NFL is loaded with guys who can catch the 10-yard in pattern. You can find plenty of people capable of grabbing the skinny post. But there is just a handful of wideouts in the league who can turn a short out pattern into a scintillating, 91-yard, cross-country TD extravaganza. Jackson is one of them, and he must be paid as one of them.
Jackson caught four passes for 210 yards Sunday night, accounting for 77.8 percent of the Eagles’ passing production. He grabbed a 60-yarder on the game’s first play from scrimmage. His shortest reception was 22 yards. Michael Vick’s other 12 completions went to seven different targets and accounted for 70 yards. In short, this was the kind of game that demonstrates graphically Jackson’s value. He is a remarkable weapon, capable of turning close games into comfortable wins and bringing the Eagles back from trouble in mere seconds.
In some ways, Jackson is a luxury, and football is by no means a luxurious sport. His sonic booms do not come all the time, and when they don’t, it’s easy to wonder why you have him around at all. In the previous three games before the win over Dallas, Jackson managed just 10 catches for 160 yards (still a robust 16.0-yard average) and no scores. He Ricky Watters-ed a ball on the goal line against the Bears. He dropped a TD pass against the Giants. He pouted. He texted his agent, Mr. “Next Question.” He displayed all of the diva tendencies that have made the wide receiver position worthy of a series on HGTV. And then he did what he did Sunday night, and all was forgiven.
Okay, maybe not all. That Nestea Plunge into the end zone after the 91-yarder was ridiculous. Must every single success be punctuated by self-aggrandizement? At least the ball made it across the goal line this time. Then again, if that’s the price we pay for explosive greatness, then we had better get used to a little grandstanding. If he starts doing sit-ups in his driveway, we might have to re-think that approach. For now, take the showboating with the scores.
The thing to remember with Jackson is that his particular brand of lightning can’t be expected to show up every Sunday. What people have to realize is that one of the reasons for the power outage is the added attention defenses provide to Jackson. If he’s being double-teamed, that creates opportunities for other players. For instance, Jeremy Maclin has already caught more passes in 13 games (57) than he did in 15 (56) last season, is averaging nearly a yard more per reception and has scored twice as many touchdowns. Yes, Maclin has matured as a player, but he has also benefitted from the extra attention Jackson attracts. Of course, sometimes it doesn’t matter how many defenders try to check Number 10, since he can just run past them.
It’s entirely possible Jackson won’t have a big game next week against the Giants. He may “disappear” against Minnesota, too. But don’t misread his lack of production for a lack of value. Jackson is an incredibly valuable player and the type of performer just about every team in the league would like to have. He will never be a 6-3, 215-pounder or specialist at going over the middle. He has already sustained a couple of concussions and could be sidelined for a long stretch if he gets gonged again. He has some spoiled-brat tendencies and a knucklehead for an agent. Spend as much time as you want on the negatives. Just remember to put the biggest mark in the “asset” column. DeSean Jackson is rare and unique treasure, and the Eagles are damn lucky to have him.
Sunday night proved that.
• Here’s a big shout-out to all my new friends from Alabama, who were so kind to respond to last week’s column: Don’t be strangers, and make sure to check back in a few months/years, when the NC2A investigation is completed.
• Congratulations to Al Golden, the new football coach at Miami. Temple fans are right to be disappointed that Golden has moved on, but there had better be no grumbling. Golden rescued a moribund program and gave it character and self-esteem, not to mention a bowl berth. He will always be remembered as one of the special Owls.
• Yes, those are the Sixers playing exciting, winning(!) basketball these days. The Celtics and Heat are certainly safe, but coach Doug Collins has his team believing that success is possible, and they are responding with some inspired play. Let’s hope it continues.
• From the gratuitous self-promotion department: Tune in to Comcast SportsNet Sunday, Dec. 19 at 6:30 p.m. to see me on “Full Contact.” I’ll debate 10 topics with Glen Macnow, and viewers get to choose who “wins.” I’m sure I can count on you loyal readers to vote early and often at CSNPhilly.com for your favorite columnist. Thank you, and the check is in the mail.