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September 08, 2019

DeSean Jackson saves Eagles in season opener comeback

Chip Kelly was trending on Twitter midway through the third quarter Sunday afternoon as the Eagles took the lead for the first time after trailing the Redskins by 17 points in the season opener (a game they'd go on to comeback and win 32-27).

Why? Well, follow me here. 

Chip Kelly — who is stinking it up at UCLA after being run out of the NFL — is the reason DeSean Jackson had to make his "return" at the Linc this weekend. He was controversially let go after Kelly's first year in Philly and had moderately successful stints in Washington and Tampa (during which time he terrorized his former team) before inking a contract to return to the team that drafted him this offseason.

All throughout the offseason and in training camp, NFL pundits and Eagles fans were a little skeptical about the re-addition of a 32-year-old speed receiver to an already old roster. It's clear after Sunday that the wryly veteran hasn't lost a step.

The Eagles looked like total crap through the first half Sunday — except for Jackson, who showed he had the same blazing speed he had the last time he started a game for Philadelphia. Making the lone first half score for the Birds, Jackson got a step on a Washington defender for a 51-yard touchdown, his 30th of that length in his career.

"At halftime, they probably thought they had the game sealed and won," Jackson told reporters after the game. "It's going to take one play."

In the second half, the Eagles chipped away at a 20-7 lead by scoring on a sustained drive (on a Wentz to Alshon red zone toss), but with Philly mired in another seemingly tight spot — a third and goal near midfield — Wentz used his eyes to draw the Washington secondary away from Jackson before throwing D-Jax his 31st 50-yard career TD.

With the Eagles' offense stuck in neutral, it was Jackson who provided the spark, and Jackson who broke things open. Philly's first win of the season belongs to Jackson.

In much the same way he targeted Ertz first on a great many plays last season, Wentz was looking for Jackson play after play after play. The wideout caught eight passes for 154 yards and was efficient, converting all but two targets.

Later in the game, the fear instilled by Jackson's vertical threat opened things up for Jeffery and Zach Ertz, who each came on late in the passing game.

In the winter of 2014, the Eagles cut Jackson for nothing. But as a true Philadelphia hero, he came back with no animosity (and received the biggest ovation of any introduced Eagles starter). He could prove to be the difference maker in an Eagles' offense that needed one last season.

Kelly cutting Jackson set in motion a course of events that would lead to the team's regression, then Kelly's firing, then Doug Pederson's hiring and eventually a Super Bowl parade down Broad Street. It's hard to hold animus for Kelly, despite his clearly misguided decision about setting Jackson free. 

Still, it feels good to look back and take a little pride in being right to question the decision six years ago.

Follow Evan on Twitter:@evan_macy

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