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DeSean Jackson had just two catches for 34 yards against Denver. (AP)
The first week was big. The second week was bigger. The last two games haven’t gone nearly as well for DeSean Jackson, which has a lot to do with why things haven’t gone so well for the Eagles, either.
“At times, it does get frustrating, going through games and not really having production and not being able to bring to the table what I’m able to bring to the table,” Jackson said Tuesday at the NovaCare Complex.
The wide receiver added that he doesn’t “feel teams are taking me out.” And he insisted he doesn’t “feel I’m being shut down or none of that.” But then, in the very next sentence, he admitted, “as far as the numbers, things really haven’t been the same the past two games.”
No, they haven’t. Jackson is one of the Eagles’ most talented offensive players, and he looked like it to start the season. In the first two games, the wideout was targeted 24 times, catching 16 passes for 297 yards and two touchdowns. He recorded a hearty 18.5 yards per reception during that span.
Over the last two games, those numbers have dipped: 13 targets, five catches, 96 yards and no touchdowns. He still averaged 19.2 yards per reception in those games. The problem, at least lately, has been the decreased overall workload. If he isn’t catching the ball as often, the impact his yards per catch have on an opposing defense is lessened.
“Guys got to take some of the pressure off DeSean,” Michael Vick said. “We can’t rely on DeSean every play. We can’t rely on DeSean every game to catch a deep ball. This league is tough. You’ve got smart defensive coordinators who game plan for him.”
That certainly seemed to be the case against the Chiefs and Broncos. Both teams did a good job of essentially neutralizing Jackson.
So what changed? What did Kansas City and Denver do against Jackson that perhaps San Diego and Washington didn’t, or at least didn’t do as well? Chip Kelly and offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur both independently mentioned that the Chiefs and Broncos played more man-to-man coverage against the Eagles. But if that’s the case, shouldn’t that ultimately favor Jackson? Because of his speed and elusiveness, shouldn’t Jackson win most of those one-on-one situations?
“Yeah, and he does,” Shurmur said. “But he’s like any receiver, though. When they come up and they play man-to-man on you, you’ve got to win your matchup.”
It was a strange, even contradictory, reply -- Shurmur saying Jackson wins one-on-one battles while simultaneously pointing to man coverage as a potential reason why Jackson’s production has fallen off a bit in the last two games.
For his part, Jackson practically beamed when asked how he feels about one-on-one matchups.
“The past five years, that’s what I’ve been praying for -- for people to play me man,” Jackson said. “In the past, everybody’s been playing zone and doing different things -- two high safeties. Now that we have this offense and we’re getting more man coverage, that’s what I love.”
To review: Jackson said he loves man coverage and prays for it, while the head coach and the offensive coordinator said man coverage might have something to do with Jackson’s decreased statistical presence of late. But to hear Jackson tell it, his recent struggles have less to do with defensive schemes and more to do with a simple truth: Teams eventually figure out what you like to do.
“We’re going out there and doing things similar to things we’ve done early in the season,” Jackson said. “The first two games of the season, we had some good success there. One thing, as you see in this league, teams study. Teams make adjustments. That’s just a part of where we’re at right now. Everybody saw what we did in the first two games and really tried to adjust to it and did a great job.”