CHICAGO -- The way rookie DeSean Jackson plays, it's hard to imagine that he's only played a grand total of four NFL games.
The chemistry with quarterback Donovan McNabb, the smooth route-running, the ability to find the soft spot in opposing coverages and the respect to demand double coverage all are characteristics usually reserved for savvy veterans, not players who were living in dorm rooms just months ago.
But Jackson is special. There's no question about that. On Sunday night, despite the 24-20 loss to the Bears, Jackson finished with five catches for 71 yards and his first career touchdown.
The evidence of just how much of a spark Jackson is was clear on the Eagles' second offensive drive.
Jackson helped the Eagles get out of an early rut on offense with a 23-yard reception along the right sideline. Quarterback Donovan McNabb had plenty of time in the pocket and threw a laser to Jackson who found a soft spot in zone coverage. Three plays later, he surprised everyone with a 21-yard gain on a reverse down the left sideline. Jackson was wide open after a great fake to Correll Buckhalter. To cap off the drive, Jackson scored his first NFL touchdown. Jackson lined up in the slot on the right side and ran a post. McNabb threaded the ball perfectly between linebacker Brian Urlacher and safety Mike Brown.
"Just being young, being a rookie, I'm expected to do things with my talent," Jackson said. "They feel comfortable with me and I feel comfortable in myself. With me being in this position, I have no choice but to go out there and make plays for this team."
But remember, Jackson is still just four games in to his NFL career. There is still plenty for Jackson to learn and he endured one of the tough lessons on the second play of the second quarter. Jackson went to cradle a Brad Maynard punt at the Eagles' 22-yard line, but the ball bounced off of his hands, against his chest and on to the ground. Linebacker Nick Roach recovered the fumble for the Bears. Two plays later, the Bears scored when Kyle Orton hit Marty Booker for a 23-yard strike.
"All week in practice, I was watching the punter and I felt like he was kicking them high, booming them a little bit," Jackson said. "It gave his coverage team time to get down there and make plays. I was looking at the punt team come down and trying to look at the ball at the same time. I was trying to do a little too much. I should have focused on catching the ball. I came up under it, it kind of slipped. I was indecisive about making a fair catch or not and I just fumbled."
Jackson also learned the importance of sticking to the game plan. Jackson was wide open for a McNabb pass over the middle in the third quarter when he pulled off too early. McNabb fired and safety Kevin Payne was in the perfect place for the easy interception.
"I was being a little impatient," Jackson said. "I should have stuck with the route. I came off a little bit and Donovan threw it. It was a mistake on me."
But Jackson is a firestarter. With the Bears defense clamping down, McNabb tried to get the ball in Jackson's hands time and time again hoping to potentially stretch the defense. Jackson had a second successful reverse later in the third quarter which led to a David Akers field goal.
The Eagles are going to keep feeding Jackson the ball, and along the way there are going to be some growing pains. But Jackson isn't making excuses, he knows he has to get on the ball - literally and figuratively.
"The biggest thing is just learning," Jackson said. "In the first year, I'm expected to be learning faster than the average rookie coming in. I respect that and I understand that. I just need to get the job done. People here, as far as the veterans, look at me and expect things from me and I just have to come through for my team."
The Eagles came up short Sunday night. But if Jackson keeps growing, keeps developing, keeps working, the sky - and the potential for this offense - is the limit.