This is year six for DeSean Jackson, all 5 feet 10 and 175 pounds of him, and he has never been better. With 75 catches, 1,275 yards and 9 touchdowns, Jackson is poised to make his third Pro Bowl.
That's only part of the story for Jackson, whose explosive talents have fit in perfectly to the offense constructed by Chip Kelly and Pat Shurmur. The coaching staff has done a magnificent job of making sure to get the football to Jackson early, often and throughout the 2013 season even as defenses zero in on No. 10 with his longtime fellow starter Jeremy Maclin sidelined all season with a knee injury.
"Every defense is focused on DeSean, and he still goes out and beats everybody," said former Eagles All-Pro wide receiver Mike Quick. "From day one in his career he's been faster than everybody and he catches everything and he's a tough guy. DeSean is a little guy, but he plays big."
While too much attention is paid to his flamboyance -- the style he brings to the game, the emotion he plays with, the look he has -- Jackson's true talent is his love and intelligence for the game of football. There are plenty of smaller, fast wide receivers out there. But there aren't many who have that breathtaking speed combined with a heart as big as a city. Jackson rarely misses practice, never shies away from a challenge and has so much fire he sometimes can be combustible, as he was for a minute or so on the sidelines during Sunday's loss in Minnesota.
The reality is that Jackson's outburst was just one of those moments that happened during a frustrating afternoon for the Eagles. It's not an excuse, and we've seen it from Jackson before, but you accept it with a player like Jackson, who has made it this far and who has established himself as one of the greatest Eagles receivers ever because he has that emotional edge, because he brings it to the field each week.
Now, it's fair to look back in Jackson's career and question my adoration. I get it. Jackson wasn't all there at times the last couple of years. His numbers dropped. He was suspended for that game against Arizona in 2011 after missing a meeting the day before the game. There were some ugly moments.
Jackson hasn't been the perfect man, and he hasn't been the perfect player. We've seen him grow up. We've seen him go from an instant sensation and a Pro Bowl player and one of the league's most dynamic playmakers to a young man who needed to get his edge back. The DeSean Jackson of 2011 and 2012, who suffered along with the rest of the roster as the Eagles, banged up and bruised, limped their way to the end of the Andy Reid Era.
This Jackson, circa 2013, is the best we've ever seen. And by the end of the season, his performance may very well be the best the Eagles have ever seen. Jackson's total of 1,275 receiving yards is the third highest in franchise history, behind only Irving Fryar, who gained 1,316 yards in 1997, and Mike Quick, who gained 1,409 yards in 1983. Jackson's 75 receptions are 13 behind Fryar's total in 1996, and while Jackson may not reach 88 catches this year, he's going to be awfully close.
|Most Receiving Yards In A Single Season|
Jackson's seven career games with 150-plus receiving yards are the most in franchise history and his average yards per game receiving is the highest for anybody who has worn an Eagles uniform.
The point is this: Jackson is a fantastic football player who doesn't come around very often. He is an electric talent with the football in his hands as a punt return man, a displaced "athlete" who can take an end around to the house or a direct snap around the edge for a big gain. Jackson catches screen passes and dances he way up the sidelines for huge yards. He kills defenses with shallow crosses and then outruns defensive backs up the field. He runs past safeties lined up over the top who have the sole job of keeping Jackson in front of them.
And he does it all while playing with more hunger and desire than you run across every day in a football player.
Jackson caught 10 passes for 195 yards and a touchdown in Minnesota. He had an 18-yard run on a double reverse called back because of an injury. The Vikings tried to double team Jackson all over the field with no success. He caught passes, zoomed past defenders and made the big plays the Eagles were looking for as they tried to come back from a large deficit.
Now the season moves into the two-game stretch run and Jackson is a focal point of this offensive attack. He's got to get his touches and provide the explosive element that helps the Eagles have a quick-strike, score-from-anywhere offense.
Jackson has been reborn in this offense after basically being used as a one- or two-dimensional piece in the recent years. Jackson seemed bored by "go" routes and hitch routes and screens. Kelly has used him across the middle much more this year, and Jackson is almost unstoppable dragging a cover man two steps behind him. Kelly wanted more versatility from Jackson and he's gotten that every week of the season.
"He has a unique skill set and you don't want to just leave him in one spot where everyone knows where he is," said Kelly. "I think the credit goes to DeSean as he has the ability to grasp. He is a really smart receiver and can play multiple positions for us and be effective in multiple positions for us. Some guys are just inside guys and some guys are just outside guys, but I think he is a combination of the two.
"It's fun as a coach when you have a player like him that you can move around."
This has been a terrific season of rebirth for Jackson, the perfect in the scheme. As the Chicago Bears prepare their defense for Sunday night's game, they want to find a way to corral Jackson without taking too much personnel away from running back LeSean McCoy and the other weapons in the Eagles' attack.
The Eagles will find a way to get Jackson the ball, though. He's one of the best we've ever seen here, and his season's numbers stand on their own. No question, when he's finished being an Eagle, Jackson will stand alone as the most dynamic wide receiver in the history of a wide receiver-rich franchise. Enjoy the show, folks, and appreciate the greatness before us. Jackson is a special player, one worth the price of admission every week, flaws and all.