Over the last week, we've debated the biggest storylines regarding the Eagles as Training Camp is about to get underway. Today, it's the No. 2 storyline, but it involves No. 10 – DeSean Jackson and his impact on the offense.
Dave Spadaro: This isn’t about how many catches DeSean Jackson has this season, or how many times he’s targeted each week. His raw numbers won’t accurately measure the impact Jackson will have on the offense. Of course, we’re all going to monitor the deep throws Carson Wentz makes and gauge the effectiveness. Surely, Jackson opens up the offense, gives the Eagles the best deep threat in the NFL, and should immediately make this offense significantly more explosive.
But Jackson’s impact goes deeper – pun intended – than that. We saw it when he was here the before, and we witnessed it firsthand when the Eagles played against Jackson. He alters the way defenses line up. How many cornerbacks are going to play Jackson one-on-one with no help over the top or inside? When Wentz sees Jackson in that kind of coverage, well, it’s almost automatic that he’s taking his chances on Jackson winning that battle. And if defenses are going to commit a safety over the top or some kind of bracket coverage inside to contain Jackson, the rest of the receiving corps has some advantageous matchups and Wentz has to recognize them and get the ball out to the open target.
Everything about Jackson is a positive here. He’s been eager and enthusiastic from the time he walked through the gates of the NovaCare Complex. He was a regular in the spring practices. He played awesome football, and that is going to continue moving forward.
No receiver in the league is faster down the field and nobody tracks the ball as well in the air as does Jackson. This is just a great, great fit. He isn’t likely to catch 85 passes, but that’s not the point. His impact goes way, way deeper than raw numbers. Jackson impacts everything when he’s on the field.
Chris McPherson: The first thing I did for this question was compare the amount of explosive pass plays (20+ yards) from 2017 to 2018. I was certain that the high-powered offense that dominated the league in the Super Bowl season had more than last year's squad.
Well, I was wrong.
The Eagles had 53 explosive pass plays last season, 10 more than the championship team.
Here's the thing.
Wide receivers accounted for 45 percent of those explosive pass plays (24 of 53) in 2018. In 2017, that rate was up to 60 percent (26 of 43). Most of the damage was done on short-to-intermediate throws that were stretched out for bigger gains.
Enter DeSean Jackson.
The numbers speak for itself. He led the league in yards per receptions last season for the fourth time in his career. He's sixth in NFL history in yards per reception. He boasts the most touchdowns of 60+ yards in NFL history with 24 and is tied for second all time with 29 50-plus-yard touchdowns.
As Jackson enters his 12th NFL season, Pro Football Focus recently constructed the "prototypical receiver for each alignment" and called Jackson the best deep threat.
The Eagles have benefited from Jackson's dynamic ability to turn the game around with a single play. The opening-play touchdown at Washington in 2010 kicked off a rout – hopefully, we there will be a recreation in Week 1 of this season. Unfortunately, the Eagles have been on the other end of the spectrum as well.
During the spring minicamp, Jackson electrified his teammates with a long touchdown catch during team drills. Jackson can be the instant catalyst to jump-start the team at any point in a game.
Fran Duffy: I think when you look at DeSean – both Chris and Dave have highlighted his individual impact along with how he will open things up for others on offense. This is all true. His speed and game-breaking ability will help provide a huge shot in the arm to the passing game. But how about special teams? Dave Fipp said this offseason that Jackson will be in the mix at punt returner, and with the Eagles looking to get more big plays out of the third phase of the game this fall, his potential there really piques my interest. Can he help flip the field and change field position for the Eagles' offense? Even a 10-yard return gets Doug Pederson and Carson Wentz a free first down. Something tells me Jackson will really provide some juice to both the offense and special teams.