He is a talent who rises above most, and with that blessing comes the curse of numerical expectations: When DeSean Jackson lines up on the field, he attracts attention. He is the one the fans look to for the big plays, the dynamic receptions, the highlight-reel touchdown plays.
Is that the role he has for the Eagles in 2019?
We don’t have an answer yet, but it’s a looming question for an Eagles offense that has had, in its pre-NFL Draft form, quite a facelift from 2018. Jackson joins a wide receiver corps that is now considered among the elite groups in the league. Jordan Howard, acquired in a trade with Chicago, headlines the running back room. The Eagles, suddenly, have a bunch of players who need to have their hands on the football – tight end Zach Ertz, wide receivers Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor and even second-year tight end Dallas Goedert, the holdovers from last season’s team.
So, how is Jackson going to fit in to the offensive equation after he was targeted more than 100 times in four of the six seasons he played in Philadelphia from 2008-2013?
“I’m just here to help the Eagles win, whatever my role is going to be,” Jackson said. “It’s about winning with me, not the numbers.”
The Eagles started their offseason conditioning program this week, a nine-week breaking-in period during which off-field camaraderie is established and on-field chemistry is started. Jackson, a Pro Bowl player when he was in Philadelphia the first time around, isn’t necessarily the star attraction in an offense the favors the spread-it-around approach. Just as Jackson has to understand his role, Jeffery has to defer to Ertz who has to defer to Agholor who has to give way to … Jackson, in his new role as the speedster who opens up the defense and makes life roomier underneath for the rest of the receiving corps.
Statistics? Wins and losses are going to be the determining factor. Jackson isn’t here to be targeted 100 times. He’s not necessarily going to be the uber-focus for an offense that wants to give quarterback Carson Wentz as many options as possible. Head coach Doug Pederson wants receivers to separate quickly. He wants the ball out of Wentz’s hands quickly, safely, efficiently.
And Jackson plays a role in all of that, even if it means he’s going to be a second or third option when needed. At age 32, entering his 12th season, Jackson has said and done all the right things since the Eagles gained him in a trade with Tampa Bay. Jackson is a grown man now, a father of three, seemingly at peace with himself. He’s accomplished just about everything he’s wanted in the NFL, except win. Winning is the focus for a player who could be in his last NFL contract.
“That’s the thing that you miss, playing in the playoffs, feeling all of that tension,” Jackson said. “When the Eagles won the Super Bowl, I was happy for the team, for the players and Mr. (Jeffrey) Lurie and the organization and the fans. The fans deserved it. You know, though, you always want to be part of that happiness. That’s why I’m here.”
Jackson says the receptions numbers and statistics don’t matter. Good to hear. It’s going to be vital that he keeps that in mind if the offense turns in a different direction starting in September. As long as Jackson keeps “team first” in his mind, he’s going to be an important part of what should be an explosive Eagles offense in 2019. ••