LANDOVER, Md. --DeSean Jackson doesn't fit a mold, and so the Eagles coaching staff spends time each week being creative, sketching up ways to get him the football so he can make his magic. On Monday night in a 27-17 win over Washington in a game that was not nearly as close as it sounds, Jackson touched the ball three times and scored two touchdowns.
He finished off the Eagles' first drive with a 67-yard carry on an end around, and then he pushed the lead to 27-7 late in the second quarter with a 57-yard touchdown catch on a player where he was 5 yards beyond the Redskins secondary.
Three touches and two touchdowns. Not a bad night for a special player, a star in the making, an exhilarating blend of speed and guile and some of the most amazing instincts you will ever witness.
On a night when the offense lived by the big play -- and we have all week to discuss the various areas in which the Eagles must improve offensively to reach their peak this season -- the biggest were made, as usual, by the second-year man from the University of California.
"A special guy," said head coach Andy Reid. "He does so many things and maybe the most important thing is that he loves the game so much."
That much is apparent. Jackson left the game at one point with a foot injury and everyone held his collective breath. Jackson very quickly has become perhaps the Most Indispensible Eagle because he is such a threat to make something great happen everywhere on the field. Reid has coached a few of those players in his time with the Eagles -- Brian Westbrook, Donovan McNabb, Terrell Owens -- and Jackson fits right into the elite category of playmakers in this franchise's history, really.
Jackson caught 62 passes and became a home-run threat as a punt returner in his rookie season, and is following up that performance with a year to remember. He ranks second on the team with 21 receptions, and that is not the significant part. Jackson has 3 touchdown receptions and is averaging 20.1 yards per catch. As a return man, Jackson averages 14.5 yards in the punt game, with a touchdown. Running the football -- out of the Wild Eagle and on end arounds -- Jackson averages 16.4 yards on 7 carries,with a touchdown.
Here is the key number: Jackson has 41 touches this year, with 5 touchdowns scored. The radio is obnoxiously good. The kid is supremely gifted, and it is understandable why the Eagles feel the need to be as creative as they can finding ways to feed him the football.
"You want to get the ball in his hands," said McNabb, who was a rocky 15 of 25 passing for only 156 yards as the Eagles gnerated just 11 first downs in the game. "He makes plays. When he is in the open field, he makes things happen."
One suggestion to lift the Eagles' offense out of its mid-season doldrums -- of sorts -- is to get the ball more to Jackson. Reid and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg line him up all over the formation to find ways to get Jackson in space, to give him a chance to juke out out a defender and use his blinding speed.
On the first touchdown on Monday night, the Eagles set Jackson up perfectly. They opened at their 19-yard line and ran Westbrook twice for 8 yards. McNabb completed a pass to tight end Brent Celek to move the chains, and then the Eagles used Jackson on a handoff from left to right across the formation and he instantly got the edge and found room. Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin sealed off cornerback Carlos Rogers toward the end of the run as Jackson sailed into the end zone to give the Eagles a much-needed early boost and a 7-0 lead.
Later in a dominating first half, the offense started a drive at the Washington 45-yard line and then moved backward. It wasn't pretty. Nick Cole was penalized for a false start. A McNabb completion to Celek lost 3 yards. McNabb was sacked for a 5-yard loss. And then it was Jackson time. Action Jackson. The Magic Man.
McNabb pumped right on a third-and-22 play and Jackson, on the left side of the formation, ran a route about 3 yards beyond the first-down mark and turned in. Rogers bit on the move, and then Jackson turned up the field and blew into the open. McNabb's pass to the left side was underthrown, but Jackson adjusted, made the catch and then danced into the end zone. Touchdown! Eagles ahead, 27-7.
And the rest of the game was, well, tough to watch. Jackson stole the show early and then took the night off to rest his foot.
Next for Jackson? More of the same. He is a dynamic player, the kind who doesn't come along very often. Teams are going to work hard to take him out of the Eagles offense, so the coaches have to work that much harder to keep him involved, get him his touches, put him in space with the ball in his hands.
The special ones need the football, and there is no doubt that, midway through his second NFL season, Jackson is special. A rare talent. An electrifying player. And the strategic chess piece the Eagles must free up on the board to do his thing every week -- be a star and score touchdowns. There are few who do it better than Jackson is doing it right now.