There was something missing from wide receiver DeSean Jackson's game in 2011.
A quick glance at his numbers might not suggest it, but there was an element to Jackson's game - one that made him one of the game's elite playmakers - that was not in abundance. It's not something physical, or something that can be quantified.
But whatever this "it" is was back on full display Thursday as Jackson met the media after signing a five-year deal. Part of this "it" was the confidence, swagger that he brings to the football field. Every time Jackson is on the field, you have to be wary that a big play can happen. He's scored 22 career touchdowns of 30-or-more yards.
And that confidence spills over to his teammates. It didn't take Jackson very long as a rookie to begin to make an impact on this team. He went for over 100 receiving yards in his first career game in 2008. At the end of that season, the Eagles reached the NFC Championship Game. Jackson's 62-yard touchdown reception in that game against the Cardinals briefly put the Eagles ahead in the fourth quarter before falling short of a Super Bowl appearance.
Since that season, Jackson has been to two Pro Bowls, helped the Eagles win another division title (with one of the greatest punt returns in NFL history against the Giants) and become just the first player in league history to post 3,500 receiving yards and 1,000 punt return yards in a player's first four seasons.
But that's not enough for Jackson. And Jackson wants to make sure to let everyone know that he's up to the challenge of delivering greatness to his teammates, the organization and the City of Philadelphia.
"I want to shoot for the Hall of Fame. I want to shoot for Super Bowls," Jackson said. "That's something I haven't done yet. I'm a Pro Bowl wide receiver, but I want to shoot for beyond that. I'm not satisfied with that."
Jackson went further to "guarantee" that the Eagles will win their first Super Bowl in the next five years with him under contract.
"Hands down, we're one of the best teams in the NFL," Jackson said.
In his opening remarks, Jackson thanked his parents, Gayle and Bill, and became emotional thinking about his father who passed away in 2009 - shortly after the Eagles' run to the NFC title game - from pancreatic cancer. From the time Jackson was a young boy, Bill envisioned greatness in his son. Jackson also spoke glowingly of his head coach and said that he and Andy Reid have a father-and-son-type relationship. Jackson could not imagine playing anywhere else than for the team that selected him in the second round (49th pick overall) in 2009.
"Since the first day he called me on draft day, he's been like a father figure to me," Jackson said of Reid. "I like the way he challenges his players to get the best out of them. He expects nothing less."
Also a Pro Bowl returner, Jackson does not imagine his role as the primary punt returner changing in the future.
In the last couple of days, the Eagles have extended two of the team's longest-tenured players in offensive tackle Todd Herremans and defensive end Trent Cole along with rewarding Jackson with his big contract. Jackson was given the franchise tag by the Eagles on March 1 and could have played under that in 2012, but he "felt good with what was on the table and I didn't want to pass that up." Jackson feels "blessed" that he can take care of his family. He also credited the Eagles for taking care of players like Herremans, Cole and himself.
"For everybody to be playing here together and growing through the system, it's good to see players stick with the team," Jackson said. "Trent's a great player. Todd's a great player. Anytime you see players like that extended, it's a great thing and it shows the Eagles front office is appreciative to the players who have been here, who have worked hard and been through the ups and downs."
Now, it's time for the leaders of this team, like Jackson who appears to be at a place he never was last season, to reward the Eagles and their fans with a title.
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