For the Philadelphia Eagles’ offense, wide receiver DeSean Jackson fulfills the need for speed.
In 13 starts this season, Jackson has hauled in 56 catches for 1,087 yards. That 19.4 yards-per-catch average ranks first among all receivers with at least 15 catches.
For Champ Bailey and Andre’ Goodman, respecting Jackson’s speed is a given. But the antidote for the second-year standout’s athletic ability is keeping him from breaking the big gain.
“I think you’d rather give up those 10- or 12-yard comebacks than to give up those 60-yard plays for touchdowns,” Goodman said. “You’ve got to stay on top of him. There’s no doubt there and just force them to make those short throws and come up with the tackle.”
When teams have tried to force the Eagles into those short situations, Jackson’s solution has been simple — eluding the coverage. He’s tied for 11th in the league with eight touchdown catches.
But all eight of those six-point grabs have gone for big gains — 19, 35, 48, 54, 57, 60, 64 and 71 yards.
“The thing about him is, you just see him run freely all the time,” Bailey said. “Nobody’s touching him. You’ve got to find a way to disrupt his timing a little bit because the guy gets downfield faster than I’ve seen anybody get downfield in a long time.”
While Goodman and Bailey will receive most of the 1-on-1 looks, Brian Dawkins added that limiting a receiver’s yards after a catch requires control in one area — open space. That task brings in not only the corners, but every piece to the 11-man operation.
“That means having tight coverage,” Dawkins said. “That means making open field tackles at some point on him. So that is going to be a total defensive effort.”
That defensive effort will extend to special teams. When Jackson isn’t breaking cushions with defensive backs, he’s weaving through traffic on coverage units. He’s averaging 17.3 yards on 24 punt returns this season, with two of those runs going for touchdowns.
Whether running over or up the middle of the field, Head Coach Josh McDaniels said Jackson’s speed is complemented by his toughness, turning him into a complete player.
“You’ve got to be tough to be a punt returner,” McDaniels said. “He’s fearless, fast, explosive, (has) great hands (and) runs really good routes. He is probably one of the better route runners that we will play all year long, too. There is nothing that he doesn’t do very well.”
A top story detailing more from Dove Valley, including the Week 16 Injury Report, will be posted later today. With snowy weather blanketing the Denver area, the Broncos practiced indoors today at their bubble facility. Here are some photos of the session, courtesy of Zach Eisendrath.
– Chris Gentilviso, DenverBroncos.com