• The mercurial wideout returns to his first team, and immediately makes it better.
By Andy Benoit
March 11, 2019

When a team is deciding whether to acquire DeSean Jackson, the conversation begins at one of two places: his speed, which is still elite, or his personality, which is still mercurial. Over the years there have been not-so-quiet whispers across the NFL that Jackson can be exceptionally difficult behind the scenes. The Eagles, however, by trading for the now-ex Buc (and his $10 million 2019 salary, which could be reworked in a new deal), are tacitly saying they think he can be managed.

Perhaps it helps that Jackson, according to recent reports, wants to be an Eagle. There are still people in the building—including GM Howie Roseman—who were there for Jackson’s first run with the club (2008-2013). This move wouldn’t be made if the Eagles weren’t confident about the interpersonal side of it.

On the football side, the move was a no-brainer (especially at the reported cost—the Eagles send a sixth-rounder to Tampa Bay and get Jackson and a 2020 seventh in return; they're also reportedly restructuring his deal to give him $13 million in guarantees). When we awoke this morning the Eagles had a big-armed downfield-minded passer in Carson Wentz but no receiving speed to stretch the defense. Nelson Agholor has nice wheels but is better suited for hoziontal routes than for vertical routes. Alshon Jeffery is a big, plodding jump-ball target, which does little to impact safeties. Zach Ertz runs well, but only for a tight end. Jackson, even at 32, is a lightning bolt.

Under offensive architect Doug Pederson, receivers rarely operate in isolation; almost every route is part of a greater route combination. A receiver who can take the top off a defense stretches those route combinations, creating space where it didn’t previous exist—especially against zone coverage. In Jackson’s case, the effect is amplified because he has quick, immediate speed, not build-up speed. Safeties not only must play deeper against Jackson, they must align deeper. Life gets easier for everyone on Philly’s offense.

Grade: A-.

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