May 20, 2019
Over the last few months, Philadelphia Eagles fans have been consumed with the 2019 NFL Draft, or what the team will do for depth at this position, or that position. As a reminder, the Eagles signed DeSean Jackson!
Of course, having watched Jackson in Philly for six years and the team playing against him twice per year when he played for the Washington team, we all already know what Jackson brings to the table as a receiver. Still, at the age of 32, there are questions as to whether or not he still possesses the same type of game-breaking speed that he had with the Eagles before Chip Kelly cut him for no good reason.
And so, I watched all of his targets in 2018, and cut them up in the video below. Give it a watch, and then I'll make some observations thereafter:
• Jackson is arguably the best deep threat in the history of the NFL, as he has more TD scores of 60+ yards (24 of them!) than any player in NFL history. In 2018, he "only" had two such 60-plus yard scores, to go along with a 58-yarder Week 1 against the Saints.
A lot of his best moments came in the first quarter of the season. In the first four games, playing with Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jackson had 17 catches for 424 yards (24.9 YPC), and 3 TDs. After serving a four-game suspension, Jameis Winston returned as the starting quarterback, and struggled to get on the same page as Jackson.
As you see in the video above, Jackson was still consistently getting behind the defense like he did in the first four games, but Winston simply wasn't making many good throws when Jackson created big play opportunities.
• In 2018, Jackson saw an average cushion from opposing defensive backs of 7.2 yards. That was the second-largest average cushion in the NFL, according to the NFL’s NextGen stats. And you see just that in the above video. Teams around the league still very much respect Jackson's ability to take the top off the defense, as evidenced by those cushions.
As a result, what you see are a lot of receptions by Jackson in which he is wide open on shorter throws. Carson Wentz will be more than happy to take some cheap, easy completions when they're there.
• Jackson's hands are underrated. I'd ding him for just two drops in the video above.
• He never was a tackle breaker. That hasn't changed. The majority of his yards after the catch come after he has caught a deep ball and is already behind the defense. Otherwise, he's a self-tackling machine, which is fine for a guy his size at this stage of his career. Self-preservation is probably best for all parties involved.
• After having watched Jackson's 2018 targets, I'm even more steadfast in the belief that he is a perfect fit for the Eagles' offense. I don't see a drop in speed, and his mere presence should open up the short-to-intermediate passing game for guys like Alshon Jeffery, Zach Ertz, and Dallas Goedert, as well as having a positive effect on the run game. And if the defense cheats up, then the above video clearly shows that he has the wheels to take the top off the defense.
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