He is possibly the best deep threat receiver in pro football. With the ball in his hands he can be absolutely electrifying. He has the ability to take it to the end zone on any given play. However, DeSean Jackson is currently without a team after being released by the Philadelphia Eagles, the team that drafted him back in 2008. There have been rumors that he was unhappy with his contract, rumors that he did not want to buy into coach Chip Kelly’s philosophy, and even rumors that he had ties to gang activity. But, regardless of all the off-field hearsay, the fact of the matter is that Jackson is not worth the headache on the field.
Jackson, a three-time pro bowl selection, brings a high level of excitement to the game. He is great for the fans, but often not good for the coach, and though he is not on the level of Terrell Owens, he has displayed multiple instances of poor behavior over the course of his career. The most recent example being the Week 15 game against the lowly Minnesota Vikings when Jackson blew up on the sideline after quarterback Nick Foles had thrown an interception and the Eagles receiver appeared to give little effort defending the return. Who he had an issue with was unclear but it took several Philadelphia teammates to pull him away and try to calm him down. Some may call the incident a display of the receiver’s competitiveness, while others may see an example of a time bomb waiting to explode.
There has been no shortage of teams inquiring about Jackson, however, but some may want to think twice before pulling the trigger on any kind of deal. He is reported to be visiting with the Eagles’ NFC East rivals, the Washington Redskins on Monday. Skins’ owner Dan Snyder has been known to make hasty, high-profile signings that have backfired before, this could be the latest if he gets the receiver to sign on the dotted line. Of course, Redskins dynamic quarterback, Robert Griffin, would probably love the idea of playing with a speed merchant such as Jackson, but with the losing season Washington just had, and with a lack of draft picks to add much needed talent, they could be in line for another sub-par season. Everything seems to be fine with the pro bowler when he is winning, but when misfortune strikes there are tirades on the sideline. Sure, his ability his immense, but DeSean Jackson may not be worth the headache that may come attached.
Upon surveying Jackson’s statistics they appear to be impressive. He has 21 touchdown receptions of 30 or more yards, tied for most in the past six seasons. His career yards per reception average is an astounding 17.2. And though rarely deployed on special teams, he has four punt return touchdowns in his career, including an improbable game winner against the Giants back in 2010. It is clear that he is a big play threat. However, is he true number one receiver, or just a one trick pony?
Jackson just experienced his best statistical season in which he had 82 receptions for 1332 yards to go along with nine touchdowns. With the NFL’s best consistently nabbing catches in the 90s and up, year after year, Jackson just reached 80 for the first time in his career. Prior to this past year he had never caught more than 62 passes in any season. Jackson has also never caught more than nine touchdowns in a season, and in three out of his six years in the league he failed to surpass four touchdown grabs. The offense cannot be called into question as the Eagles’ have not suffered from a serious lack of poor quarterback play, and former coach Andy Reid always preferred the pass over the run.
Then there is the question of Jackson’s smallish build, and though aside from the 2012 season, he has not missed a substantial amount of games, he has missed some, and he has sat on the sideline with minor ailments during some. He also became less of a threat when the Eagles got down into the red zone because he is too small to win jump ball situations against most taller defensive backs. There was also much discussion in previous seasons about the receiver’s dislike for going over the middle to catch the difficult passes in traffic. In order to be a premier NFL receiver and to keep an offense functioning at its highest capacity those are things you must be able to do.
And so NFL teams must ask themselves if a deep-ball specialist is really worth the price of an all-around number one receiver. There are many great things that a player like Jackson can do for an offense. He can be that final piece that turns a good offense into an elite offense, but whether he can be relied upon as the number one option over a long period of time remains to be seen. And, can he refrain from the sideline squabbles if things do not quite go his way, because if he cannot, then DeSean Jackson is not worth the headache.
Commentary by Kalen Skalesky