Nick Foles won’t see DeSean Jackson blazing down the sideline next year, at least not until the Eagles and Redskins play their division games.
But he doesn’t anticipate the Eagles’ offense, which smashed franchise records last season for offensive yards and points scored, to suffer from Jackson’s defection to the rival Redskins.
“It’s just not going to be No. 10. It’s going to be someone else stepping in,” Foles said Wednesday. “We’re going to be doing our offense, doing what we do. I expect the same plays we made last year, I expect to run those plays again. Obviously, defenses will be able to study that and come out with a plan, but I expect my receivers to make plays when they’re out there.”
Foles mentioned the return of Jeremy Maclin, who missed all of last season, along with Riley Cooper, who broke out for 835 yards and eight touchdowns last year before signing a long-term deal in the offseason to avoid free agency.
Foles also singled out forgotten wideout Arrelious Benn, an injury-prone former second-round pick of the Bucs who the Eagles traded for last offseason. Benn also missed the entire 2014 season with a knee injury.
Contrary to popular sentiment, Foles said Eagles receivers didn’t always feast off the defensive attention commanded by Jackson, who logged personal bests last year in receptions (82) and receiving yards (1,332) while catching nine touchdowns.
The team cut Jackson in March, enabling the enigmatic wideout to jump ship to the Redskins on a three-year deal.
As last season progressed, and as deep ball connections between Foles and Cooper stockpiled, defenses couldn’t focus squarely on locking up Jackson with multiple defenders. Cooper’s 17.8 yards per reception led all Eagles receivers and ranked second among NFL receivers with at least 45 receptions.
“Coop had a great year and then they couldn’t double DeSean,” Foles said. “And then if they want to double both guys, well then you got LeSean McCoy running the ball and if I keep it as well we’ll get some yards.”
Foles admitted that there’s “only one DeSean Jackson,” a receiver whose top-end speed alone can change the dynamic of any game, but the third-year quarterback emphasized that the Eagles would still be able to run the same offense without problems.
“We’ll have guys step up,” he said. “We have Mac back, which is exciting. We’ll see what happens in the draft coming up and we also have guys coming in that they’ve got to step in and make plays. DeSean is a great receiver. He’s very talented. He’s unique in how he’s so fast and can get open and things like that. He’s a hard guy to replace, but we’ll have someone step in and do a great job in their own way.”