Vick and Jackson reviving deep-ball threat

Vick and Jackson reviving deep-ball threat

DeSean Jackson addresses maturity concerns

September 19, 2013, 8:00 am
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Michael Vick and DeSean Jackson have connected for touchdowns of 60 yards or more six times -- the most in Eagles history. (USA Today Images)

By the Numbers

Most 60-yard TD passes, active QB-WR
8 -- Eli Manning/Victor Cruz
6 -- Michael Vick/DeSean Jackson
5 -- Matt Schaub/Andre Johnson
5 -- Matt Ryan/Julio Jones
4 -- Drew Brees/Devery Henderson
4 -- Aaron Rodgers/Greg Jennings
4 -- Tom Brady/Randy Moss
4 -- Aaron Rodgers/Jordy Nelson
4 -- Ben Roethlisberger/Mike Wallace

Most 60-yard TD connections, Eagles history
6 -- Michael Vick/DeSean Jackson
6 -- Norm Snead/Ben Hawkins
5 -- Ron Jaworski/Mike Quick
3 -- Sonny Jurgensen/Tim Brown
3 -- Roy Zimmerman/Jack Ferrante
3 -- Sonny Jurgensen/Tommy McDonald
3 -- Randall Cunningham/Mike Quick

Most 60-yard TD passes, Eagles history
13 -- Donovan McNabb
11 -- Norm Snead
10 -- Tommy Thompson
10 -- Randall Cunningham
8 -- Sonny Jurgensen
8 -- Michael Vick
8 -- Ron Jaworski

Most 60-yard TD catches, Eagles history
9 -- DeSean Jackson
8 -- Ben Hawkins
8 -- Mike Quick
6 -- Tommy McDonald
5 -- Timmy Brown
5 -- Jack Ferrante
5 -- Harold Jackson

The offense has changed, the scheme has changed, the coach has changed.

One thing that hasn’t changed is the electrifying home-run ability of Michael Vick and DeSean Jackson.

Any concern that the trademark big plays we saw so often early in Jackson’s career were a thing of the past should be put to rest.

The Eagles took a bunch of deep shots Sunday against the Chargers, hitting on one 61-yard Vick-to-Jackson touchdown, and even though they missed on a couple others, it’s clear now that the home-run ball is going to be a part of Chip Kelly’s no-huddle scheme.

“There’s not a wide receiver out there -- including Mike Wallace -- that is a better deep-ball threat than DeSean Jackson,” LeSean McCoy said.

“With talent. You find guys all the time that are just fast. DeSean is fast and he has tons of talent. When guys want to start bringing extra guys in the box, bring extra safeties down? They’ve got to watch out for DeSean going up top. Mike has an amazing strong arm to get it out there, and DeSean, we’ve all seen him for years make them type of catches.”

Vick’s 61-yard touchdown to Jackson Sunday was the sixth TD connection of 60 yards or more between Vick and Jackson, the second-most of any active quarterback-receiver combination in the NFL and the most in Eagles history.

In all, including punt returns and a run from scrimmage, Jackson has scored 15 touchdowns of 60 yards or more in his career, the most in NFL history by a player before his 27th birthday. Jackson could have nine more games before he turns 27 on Dec. 1, so there’s still time to build on it.

Jackson caught five long TDs from Donovan McNabb -- 48, 54, 57 and 60 in the regular season and 61 yards in the 2008 NFC championship game -- and he reeled in touchdowns of 64 and 71 yards from Kevin Kolb.

But nobody in franchise history has ever had a better connection than Vick and Jackson.

“You know, we’re going on our fourth year of playing together,” Jackson said. “To be able to have a quarterback that can get it down the field, as a wide receiver, I just run.

“Just run as fast as I can and I know he’ll throw it as far as he can.”

Jackson already ranks 19th in NFL history with 10 career receiving touchdowns of 60 or more yards.

Vick has 10 career TD passes of 60 yards or more, six to Jackson, two to Jeremy Maclin and one each to Brent Celek in 2010 and Trevor Gaylor in 2002 with the Falcons.

Since Vick became the Eagles’ regular quarterback in 2010, only Eli Manning (13) and Aaron Rodgers (10) have more TD passes of 60 yards or more than Vick (eight).

Those big plays between Vick and Jackson don’t just happen. Jackson said Vick has developed a real flair for helping Jackson get open when a deep route is called.

“He does a great job of looking safeties off, he doesn’t stare me down the whole time,” Jackson said. “He knows what reads to make, when to throw it, when not to throw it.

“A lot of times, single-high safety [is] just staring down and looking at the quarterback, so by moving your eyes, looking other ways, and then coming back down the field, definitely that 10th of a second keeps safeties off me.”

In Andy Reid’s offense, Jackson didn’t do a lot other than streaking down the field. Reid’s scheme included a deep read on almost every snap, but Jackson’s game became one-dimensional, and that made him easier to defend, even with his tremendous speed.

“Usually in the past, I’ve just been the outside receiver and that’s where I’ve been the whole game,” he said. “Being able to be in the slot, being able to be motioned, not always be the outside wide receiver, it puts stress on linebackers and safeties to guard me as well.”

Under Reid, who returns to Philly Thursday night with the Chiefs, Jackson had seven touchdowns of 60 yards or more in 2009 and 2010 but only one in 2011 and 2012.

Chip Kelly’s scheme might not feature as many deep balls as Reid’s -- after all, one of the prime requirements is that everybody gets back to the line of scrimmage as fast as possible, and deep balls make that difficult -- but by varying the ways Jackson is used, he’s become tougher to defend.

“It doesn't matter if it's this offense or any offense, if you don't show people you can throw the ball down the field, they're going to crawl up on you and everybody is going to be within six, seven yards of the line of scrimmage,” Kelly said.

“If you don't have someone that can beat you deep, I think the defense is going to start to get tighter and closer to the line of scrimmage, and it makes it very difficult to move the football in any fashion, whether you're running or throwing.

“The fact that you have some deep threats and some people that can beat you over the top I think kind of loosens up defenses, and I think that's what DeSean gives us. He's certainly a special playmaker.”

Jackson leads the NFL with 293 receiving yards after two weeks. He averaged only 64 yards per game the last two years and appears on pace to blow away his career-best of 1,156 yards from 2009, his first of two consecutive Pro Bowl seasons.

If he surpasses 100 yards Thursday night against the Chiefs -- the best defense the Eagles will have faced yet -- Jackson will become the first Eagle with three straight 100-yard games since Terrell Owens had five straight in 2004.

“I think the key is just being on the same page and understanding what the defense is giving us,” Vick said. “We practice extremely hard and watch a lot of film trying to make sure that when we have opportunities to go down the field we can capitalize on it.

“At some points, you’re going to get your shots. Every concept we have has some form of deep shots. We just try to make sure that if there’s an opportunity we don’t miss it. That comes from film study and knowing exactly what the defense is giving us.”

Vick and Jackson are almost halfway to the NFL record of 60-yard connections. John Hadl and Lance Alworth of the Chargers hooked up 13 times on TDs of 60 yards or more between 1964 and 1969, and the NFL absorbed all AFL records when the two leagues merged.

The only other duos in double digits are Johnny Unitas to Lenny Moore (13), Ken Anderson to Isaac Curtis (10), Joe Montana to Jerry Rice (10) and Steve Young to Jerry Rice (10).

“Michael Vick does a great job of putting that ball out there and letting me go get it,” Jackson said. “I’m just happy to have a quarterback that can always overthrow me instead of underthrowing me.”

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