In two career games against Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, DeSean Jackson totaled 12 catches for 168 yards and two touchdowns. (USA Today Images)
They’re pals. They hung out when they both played here. They stay in touch now. On Sunday, DeSean Jackson and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie will have a reunion of sorts.
When the Eagles face the Broncos, Jackson expects to see his former teammate staring at him from across the line of scrimmage.
“I’m sure he’ll probably be on me,” Jackson said about which of the Broncos' cornerbacks he expects to defend him most often. “He’s a good friend of mine. We have a pretty good relationship. The past two years, we’ve been going at it a lot. I know him just as well as he probably knows me. It will be a great opportunity for both of us to go out there and just compete against each other at a high level. In the past, I played against him before he came here, when he was at Arizona.”
That was back in 2008. Both Jackson and Rodgers-Cromartie were rookies that year. The Eagles and Cardinals played each other twice –- once in the regular season, once in the postseason. In the first game, Jackson caught six passes for 76 yards and a touchdown. The Eagles won. In the conference championship, Jackson grabbed six passes for 92 yards, including a long touchdown that he hauled in against Rodgers-Cromartie. The Eagles lost.
They matched up several times in both games, but Rodgers-Cromartie didn’t shadow Jackson exclusively in either outing. It will probably go that way again on Sunday –- they’ll see each other enough, but it’s unlikely that they’ll be positioned against each other for the duration.
“I anticipate they'll play against each other, at least a portion of the game,” Eagles offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said. “[Rodgers-Cromartie] is one of the outstanding talents in this league. He runs extremely well. He can get in your hip and run well. He's got outstanding ball skills. All the same things that he had before he went to Denver, you can still see on tape.”
Regardless of the frequency of their matchups and how often they’re pitted in direct competition on Sunday, the pair has a history. They faced each other as members of opposite teams, and they played against each other in practice for two years. They know each other. So what did Jackson learn about Rodgers-Cromartie?
“Overall, he’s a good corner,” Jackson said. “In this league, he’s probably one of the top guys at his position. Speed. Agility. Quickness and things like that.”
Prior to the 2011 season, the Eagles traded Kevin Kolb to the Cardinals in exchange for a second-round pick and Rodgers-Cromartie. DRC was 25 years old when he landed with the Birds. He was a Pro Bowler for Arizona in 2009, and in three seasons with the Cardinals he totaled 13 interceptions.
His time in Philadelphia wasn’t as productive. Rodgers-Cromartie played 13 games in 2011 and didn’t record an interception. In 2012, he had three interceptions and 17 passes defended, but the Eagles let him walk in free agency. This season, DRC has one interception and three passes defended in three games.
“I need to pressure him,” Jackson said about Rodgers-Cromartie, “in a way where he feels threatened to go down the field or burst off the ball and then stop.
“It will be a challenge for both of us. He’s a good player. I’m a good player. We’ll go out there and fight, battle, whatever the case may be. At the end of the day, we’re friends, but once that game starts I just got to do what we need to do to win the game.”
Jackson said he talked to DRC shortly after the season started, but they haven’t spoken yet this week. Does the wideout plan to touch base with the cornerback before kickoff?
“I probably will,” Jackson said. “I’ll mess around with him a little bit.”