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December 12, 2016

A DeSean Jackson return to the Eagles makes too much sense

Eagles NFL
121216DeSeanJackson Alex Brandon/AP

"DeSean... Bro... Our fans are screaming for some undrafted guy named Paul Turner to play. Help us. Please."

In his final season in Philadelphia in 2013, before he was released by Chip Kelly for "football reasons," DeSean Jackson had 25 receptions of 20+ yards during the regular season, which was second-most in the NFL. Nine of those receptions went for 40+ yards, which was third-most in the NFL.

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The Eagles were fourth in the NFL in total points that season, 30.3 percent of which came on drives in which Jackson had a reception of 20+ yards. Here is a chart of all of Jackson's big plays that season, and the result of the drive:

Opponent Play Drive result Points
Redskins 26 yard reception FG 3
Redskins 25 yard TD reception TD 7
Chargers 41 yard reception TD 7
Chargers 20 yard reception Missed FG 0
Chargers 61 yard TD reception TD 7
Chargers 25 yard reception FG 3
Chiefs 40 yard reception Missed FG 0
Broncos 20 yard reception TD 7
Giants 56 yard reception TD 7
Giants 21 yard reception FG 3
Giants 28 yard reception TD 7
Buccaneers 36 yard reception TD 7
Raiders 20 yard reception TD 7
Raiders 46 yard TD reception TD 7
Raiders 59 yard reception TD 7
Packers 55 yard TD reception TD 7
Packers 21 yard reception FG 3
Redskins 26 yard reception FG 3
Redskins 22 yard reception TD 7
Cardinals 25 yard reception TD 7
Vikings 20 yard reception FG 3
Vikings 21 yard reception FG 3
Vikings 30 yard TD reception TD 7
Vikings 51 yards reception TD 8
Cowboys 20 yard reception TD 7
Saints (playoffs) 40 yard reception TD 7
TOTALS 26 plays of 20+ yards 17 TD, 7 FG, 2 MFG 141

By comparison, in 2016, Eagles wide receivers have combined for a grand total of 22 receptions of 20+ yards, with three games to play.

In 2013, the Eagles set a new NFL record with 80 pass plays of 20+ yards. Their big play production since Jackson was released has predictably gone down ever since:

Year Pass plays of 20+ yards 
 201635 (on pace for 43) 

While part of that decline was certainly due to opposing defenses adapting to Kelly's fast-paced offense, the absence of Jackson unquestionably limited the Eagles' big play capabilities.

In 2016, the Eagles' receivers have been woeful making plays down the field, as they are on pace for just 43 pass plays of 20+ yards, or barely half of the Eagles' total in Jackson's last season in Philly.

In Sunday's loss to Jackson's team of the last three years, the Washington Redskins, Jackson burned the Eagles for an 80-yard touchdown reception. That was Jackson's 22nd career 60+ yard reception of his career, which is now second all-time behind only Jerry Rice, according to Brian McNally of 106.7 the Fan in Washington D.C.:

Back in October, Jackson indicated that he was open to a return to Philadelphia when he hit free agency this offseason. Rumors intensified a week ago when Adam Schefter of ESPN reported that the Eagles are likely to pursue Jackson in free agency this offseason. A few days later, Tim McManus of ESPN reported that Jackson would be 'intrigued' by a return to Philly.

After the game on Sunday, Jackson was asked if Eagles fans were trying to lure him back to Philly during the game. “I don’t know man, shoot," Jackson responded. "We’ll see what happens, you never know how it’ll play out.”

The Eagles desperately need a player who can make big plays down the field, and one of the greatest big-play players in NFL history seems willing to do that for them once again. So maybe that should happen.

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