By Michael Beller
September 27, 2013
DeSean Jackson is thriving in the Eagles' revamped offense, making big plays all over the field.
Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

In 2009 and 2010, Jackson combined for 2,212 yards and 15 touchdowns, and his career had been a steady decline ever since. He fell off to 961 yards and four touchdowns in 2011. Last year he played just 11 games, set a career low with 700 yards and tied his career-worst touchdown output of two. He became a home-run hitter in his second year in the league, but that had escaped him in recent seasons, as well. He averaged 18.6 yards per catch in 2009, and increased that number to 22.5 the following year. It crashed to 16.6 in 2011 and dipped another full yard last season. Even with Kelly and his new-look offense in town, you could forgive fantasy owners for allowing Jackson to slip outside the top-30 receivers in draft season. He needs the big play to be an impact receiver, and it was hard to bet on him hitting on a lot of those this year.

Let's examine two plays to get an idea of how the different looks the Eagles are throwing at opposing defenses have helped Jackson rediscover his big-play mojo. The first is his 41-yard reception in the second quarter. It's 1st and 10 on the Philadelphia 42. Jackson is the receiver nearest the line on the right side of the formation. A receiver with Jackson's speed typically lines up outside the numbers. Not so with Kelly at the helm.

The Eagles run four verticals here, a staple of any offense. The linebackers are so preoccupied with Vick's read-option-style playfake to McCoy that they can't drop underneath Jackson's route. With Jackson crossing the 50 wide open, it's simple pitch and catch. And with all the space created by the confusion that Jackson has after the reception, he's able to run with it for another 23 yards.

Fast forward to the third quarter. The Eagles trail 20-13 and have a 2nd and 6 on their own 39. This time, Jackson's all alone on the right side of the formation, outside the numbers like a more traditional wideout. The tight end is left, and McCoy is also to Vick's left.

You can see at the start of the play that strong safety Marcus Gilchrist is playing single high. Free safety Eric Waddle has crept down showing that he might cover Brent Celek one-on-one. That means it'll be up to Gilchrist to determine whether his help is needed on Jackson or on the strong side of Philly's formation. With Vick looking left at the start of the play, Gilchrist decides to play the strong side. It was the wrong decision. Now facing man-to-man coverage, Jackson makes one subtle move and then he's off to the races.

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