Published September 06, 2013
PHILADELPHIA – DeSean Jackson has added the element of surprise to his repertoire.
The two-time Pro Bowl wide receiver made plenty of big plays for the Philadelphia Eagles even when defenses knew what he was doing. In former coach Andy Reid's offense, Jackson ran mostly deep routes. The result was 19 of his 28 career touchdowns receiving and rushing went for more than 30 yards.
But, Jackson found the end zone fewer times after teams figured out the way the Eagles used him. He had 22 touchdowns in his first three seasons, including two in the playoffs. He scored only six over the last two years.
Now that Chip Kelly is here, Jackson will be used in a variety of ways. Kelly's up-tempo offense features numerous formations and defenses won't be able to predict how Jackson gets the ball.
He'll be on display prominently on Monday, when the Eagles open vs. Washington.
"In the past, teams have done a great job of seeing what I've done early in my career with making the big plays and electrifying plays and things like that, but now with this offense coming in, it's really going to be a plus in my eyes," Jackson said. "A lot of teams don't really know what to expect. Regardless of what we did in the preseason, I still think there are a lot of plays that have been hidden and that we haven't been running.
"The versatility with the offense will keep the defense off-guard."
Kelly could use Jackson similar to the way he featured do-everything-back De'Anthony Thomas at Oregon minus the direct handoffs. Thomas had 1,296 yards rushing and 18 touchdowns and 1,050 yards receiving and 14 scores for Kelly in 2011-12.
"Regardless of where I come out, every play with the tempo and with the speed plays and intensity, we'll always be able to keep them off-guard," Jackson said. "Whether it's down the field, options, reverses, getting the ball out quick, those are things that we're going to take advantage of, and hopefully once we get them to kind of play up, we can go down the field a little bit."
Jackson may also get the ball on punts. He's a dangerous returner who went to the Pro Bowl in 2009 after taking two punts the distance. Jackson has four career scores on punt returns, including the memorable 65-yard game-ending return to cap a comeback win over the New York Giants in 2010. Last year, Jackson only returned one punt. But, he hinted that he could be back there for the season opener at Washington on Monday night.
Michael Vick embraces Jackson's new role. The quarterback has thrown for 2,497 yards to Jackson, the most for any wide receiver he's played with. They've combined on touchdowns of 61, 62, 77, 88 and 91 yards since 2010.
"You just have to move DeSean around and kind of psyche the defense out and not make it predictable in terms of what you're going to do," Vick said. "You move him inside, you move him outside, and you go deep when you get your opportunities. You don't just line up and send him deep all of the time. I think Coach Kelly has a way of getting the ball to him in the right situations.
"He's more confident and he's ready to play some good football. I expect a lot of big things from him this year."
Jackson figures to get even more touches this year because Jeremy Maclin tore a knee ligament and is out for the season. Maclin had more catches, yards receiving and touchdowns than Jackson the last three years.
The duo complemented each other well. Jackson specialized in downfield plays and Maclin made catches to keep drives going.
"I definitely think my role has increased since he went down," Jackson said. "Everyone has noticed. I don't see it as more pressure. I was telling him the other day that I miss him being out there with me because of the competitive nature.
"We pushed each other and not seeing him out there is kind of tough."
The diminutive Jackson, generously listed at 5-foot-10, 175 pounds, isn't a prototypical No. 1 receiver. But he's a tough guy who only missed four games his first four seasons before sitting out the final five last year because of a ribs injury.
Over his first five seasons, Jackson has averaged 55 catches, 957 yards and almost five touchdowns. Those numbers should go up in Kelly's system.
"I always wanted to be known as one of the best players to play this position," Jackson said. "Being 5-10, 170-175, I don't really see any guys that stature and size be able to contribute the way I have been able to the first five. When all is said and done, I think I will go down as one of the smallest guys to play wide receiver to do great things. All my life, I was doubted. People said I was too small and I use that to stay motivated."
NOTES: Before practice Friday, coach Chip Kelly downplayed the scuffle between cornerback Cary Williams and wide receiver Riley Cooper a day earlier, saying it had nothing to do with Cooper's racial slur at a Kenny Chesney concert in June. "Do I think that was connected? No, not at all," Kelly said. ... Backup CB Brandon Hughes (hand) and backup OL Dennis Kelly (back) won't play against the Redskins.
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