DeSean Jackson set the bar pretty high for himself.
Once upon a time, rookie wide receivers couldn't flourish in Andy Reid's offense. Reggie Brown chipped away at that notion with 43 catches for 571 yards and four touchdowns in 2005. But it was Jackson who blew the doors down when he caught 62 passes for 912 yards and a pair of touchdowns last season. The 62 catches were the most ever by a rookie wide receiver in team history and the receiving yards were the most by any rookie in franchise history.
To imagine what Jackson might do, let's compare what sophomores around the league did a year ago to sophomores playing for Reid in the past. Last year, Kansas City's Dwayne Bowe caught 86 passes for 1,022 yards and seven touchdowns. All of the numbers were better than his rookie year, but he still had 995 yards and five touchdowns in his first season. Detroit's Calvin Johnson exploded in his second year catching 78 balls for 1,331 yards and 12 touchdowns. Johnson's reception and yardage totals were nearly double that of his rookie season and his touchdown total was tripled. Of course, Johnson also became the No. 1 guy with Roy Williams being dealt to Dallas midseason. Ted Ginn of the Miami Dolphins, the No. 9 overall pick in 2007, posted good numbers in his second year, but Jackson's were better. Ginn had 56 catches for 790 yards and two touchdowns in 2008. However, the reception and yardage totals were up from his first year.
Under Reid, the first receiver to go through the maturation process was Todd Pinkston - a second-round pick in 2000. As a soph, Pinkston caught 42 passes for 586 yards and four touchdowns - pretty much quadrupling his numbers across the board. Freddie Mitchell, a first-round pick in 2001, saw his numbers decline in 2002. He only had 12 catches for 105 yards. Going back to Brown, who before Jackson was the most successful rookie wide receiver under Reid, he caught three more passes than his rookie season (46-43), had 245 more yards (816-571) and doubled his touchdown total (8-4). Jason Avant, who has carved out a nice niche as a slot receiver, saw a nice jump across the board when he caught 23 passes for 267 yards and two touchdowns in 2007.
Of course, there are going to be a number of factors that weigh into what Jackson will do in 2009. Who will line up opposite of him? Remember Kevin Curtis and Brown both battled injuries in the early part of 2008. Will the tight end be more involved in the offense like Brent Celek was down the stretch? Will Brian Westbrook need to catch as many passes as he did in 2007 when he caught 90?
And some of these factors are on Jackson's shoulders. Primarily, will Jackson put the work in the weight room and the film room to make himself a better player during the off-season? From the way he competed as a rookie, the answer seems to scream yes. How will the coaches utilize him? Wide receivers coach David Culley is going to have more input into the offensive gameplan this season and who knows Jackson's capabilities better than him?
History is certainly on Jackson's side. Are 70-80 catches, well over 1,000 yards and double-digit touchdowns in Jackson's future for 2009? Time will tell, but if so, Jackson is going to be a lot of fun to watch - that's for sure.