Coach Ted Daisher defines DeSean Jackson as a "playmaker." Not a returner. Not a receiver. But a playmaker.
That's why the Eagles' special teams coach sees Jackson continuing his dual role on offense and special teams.
"I think his role here is already defined," said Daisher, who believes Jackson has a chance to be an all-time great returner. "I think to take the ball out of his hands as a punt returner would be a mistake, because he creates plays for our team. [He] creates field position, he creates big plays for us, gives us an opportunity to be successful and I'm sure he'll be in this role for some time.
"He just has an uncanny ability to make people miss. I know you see it on offense. His ability to find space, make quick moves and accelerate through them is very impressive."
So are Jackson's numbers this season. The second-year player leads the league in yards per catch (18.9) and punt return average (17.8) and has 10 touchdowns, including punt returns of 85 and 72 yards. Heading into Sunday's game, Jackson has 15 career touchdowns, 12 of which have covered 35 yards or more.
Much like with Brian Westbrook early in his career, questions will be raised as to whether Jackson could be become so valuable to the offense that his role as primary returner could diminish.
In 2003, Westbrook's second season in the league, No. 36 was part of a three-man backfield on offense. He also handles punt and kick returns for John Harbaugh's special teams. Westbrook quickly established himself as a versatile playmaker -- someone who could run between the tackles, catch the ball out of the backfield and break off an explosive return. In 2003, Westbrook averaged 5.2 yards rushing, 9 yards per catch, 21.2 yards on kick returns and 15.3 yards on punt returns. All told, he alone accounted for 13 touchdowns.
Westbrook's role changed dramatically in 2004 as he was counted on to shoulder the load in the backfield. He returned just two punts in the regular season and another three in the playoffs. Since then, his use on punt returns has been spotty, including a 64-yarder against Seattle which he almost took the distance.
Jackson assumed the punt return duties in 2008, and with injuries to Kevin Curtis and Reggie Brown, he stepped into a starter's role on offense as well. He finished his rookie year averaging 14.7 yards per reception and 8.8 yards on punt returns.
Jackson said he could see his role changing down the road, but right now he's having way too much fun to give up his role as punt returner.
"It's just something I love so much," Jackson said. "It's definitely tiring sometimes at points, especially being a receiver and doing punt returns. I don't think I could ever just stop doing punt returns completely, but maybe later in my career just punt returns here and there like they did with Westbrook.
"Right now, I'm loving it and I'm just going to keep bringing that excitement to the team."
-- Posted by Bob Kent, 12:07 p.m., December 18