Eagle Eye: Biggest surprises of the season
DeSean Jackson is on pace to set career highs in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns. (USA Today Images)
DeSean Jackson's Per-Game Averages
2008: 3.9 rec, 57.0 yds, 0.13 TD
2009: 4.1 rec, 77.1 yds, 0.60 TD
2010: 3.4 rec, 75.4 yds, 0.43 TD
2011: 3.9 rec, 64.1 yds, 0.27 TD
2012: 4.1 rec, 63.6 yds, 0.18 TD
2013: 5.3 rec, 89.5 yds, 0.64 TD
DeSean Jackson has had a couple 1,000-yard seasons, has been to a couple Pro Bowls, has made a ton of highlight-reel plays.
He’s just never had that one monster season you always felt he was capable of.
In his first year under Chip Kelly, Jackson has finally tapped into all that potential.
Not that he wasn’t electrifying before. He was. It’s just that he’s doing it better than ever. More consistently than ever. More often than ever.
With five games left, Jackson is within five catches, 171 yards and three touchdown catches of his career highs.
He’s on pace to break Mike Quick’s franchise record of 1,409 receiving yards in a season, set in 1983, and he’s not far off pace of Brian Westbrook’s record of 90 receptions in a season.
“I just really credit the offensive scheme,” Jackson said. “Chip is doing a great job with not only myself but with a lot of guys on the team. He’s putting us in positions to go out there and be successful. I’m just staying with it.
“Sometimes, they might guard you a certain way or a certain defense might cause you not to get the ball, but you just have to keep pounding away at it and doing the things we need to do to put points on the board.”
In his first five seasons with the Eagles, Jackson averaged 55 catches for 957 yards and 4½ touchdown catches.
Very good numbers. In fact, Jackson had more catches (274) and yards (4,785) in his first five years than any other Eagle in history. And only Jeremy Maclin (26) had more TD catches than Jackson (23).
This year? Another level.
In 11 games, Jackson already has 58 catches for 985 yards and seven touchdowns. He’s third in the NFL in receiving yards and ninth in TD catches. His 17.0 yards per catch is also ninth-best.
The Eagles are winning, the offense is rolling and Jackson is on his way back to the Pro Bowl and perhaps to the greatest season ever by an Eagles wideout.
“The biggest thing is that [Kelly is] creative in the play-calling,” Jackson said. “He knows how to get mismatches and how to move guys around and things like that.
“I know that when the ball is in the air and it gets in our hands, you have to do your job. I’ve always been known to get yards after the catch, so it’s just sticking with it and knowing throughout the course of the game there are going to be ups and downs. You just have to stay steady throughout the whole game.”
Jackson gives Kelly the credit.
And Kelly gives it right back to Jackson.
“I've seen the same thing since I got here in April,” Kelly said. “He was here 30 out of 32 days in the offseason, I think. Works extremely hard at practice. He's a very intelligent football player. I don't think he gets enough credit for that. He picks things up like that. He can tell you, ‘It's coverage this, this, they're playing me this way. He's leaning that way.’ He's got a great football mind.
“Since I've been here, he's been an extremely hard worker. He's been out there almost every single day practicing, barring one or two, and has put in his time, whether it's in the weight room, whether it's in the classroom or whether it's on the practice field. So he's been fantastic since we've been here.
“What's happening on the field in terms of on Sunday is a byproduct of what he's doing since I've been here off the field and I think he's doing a great job.”
Jackson has had four 100-yard games so far, giving him 19 in his career, just two short of the franchise record shared by Quick and Pete Retzlaff.
Maybe even more impressively, he’s reached 60 yards or more in nine of 11 games.
No other NFL player has had at least 60 yards nine times.
Jackson is also still making his signature big plays. He has seven catches of 40 yards or more, second-most in the league behind Jordy Nelson’s nine.
Jackson turns 27 on Dec. 1, when the Eagles return to action against the Cards.
His 5,770 career receiving yards are already fourth-most in Eagles history and fourth-most in NFL history by a player before his 27th birthday, behind only Randy Moss (8,375), Larry Fitzgerald (7,067) and Calvin Johnson (6,241).
The Eagles went to the playoffs Jackson’s first three seasons, averaging 10 wins a year. But they haven’t been back or had a winning season since.
This year, the Eagles are 6-5, winners of five of their last seven going into the bye week.
“Regardless of my stats, and I’m definitely happy about them, but at the end of the day, a win is a more important thing to be happy about,” Jackson said. “To go out there and to put up individual stats and be successful is nice, but winning is the thing that we think about.
“We’re on a roll, and we just have to keep it going and finish the season strong. We’re 6-5, but we have some tough games ahead of us. That’s the interesting thing about the division right now. We’re just excited to be at the top, and hopefully we can finish strong and get that first seed.”