Professional football can be an interesting work environment, one with a constant churn and a wandering eye.
Often, the once belle of the ball is asked to mentor his eventual replacement. It happened to Jason Peters with Andre Dillard a year ago and now DeSean Jackson is up, the 33-year-old cheetah tasked with tutoring 2020 first-round pick Jalen Reagor, a 21-year-old replicant.
Sometimes that's not easy for players. Take future Hall of Famer Aaron Rodgers, who admitted he had to go from sippin' tequila to four fingers of the stuff once he heard the 13-3 Packers invested in his potential replacement down the line, Jordan Love, instead of receivers like Justin Jefferson or Brandon Aiyuk.
Even in Philadelphia where the Eagles selected Jalen Hurts at No. 53 overall in April, it doesn't seem like Carson Wentz was racing to get chummy with his new potential backup, although there is also plenty of context to that which encompasses both the obvious (the COVID-19 pandemic) and the lesser so (Wentz becoming a first-time father in the offseason).
"It has been kind of a weird deal," Hurts told reporters via Zoom on Tuesday. "This whole offseason has been unprecedented, not being in the building. Not experience things that I would have experienced in the traditional offseason or OTAs or that type of deal. So there hasn’t really been much of that communication (with Wentz)."
Jackson, on the other hand, hasn't had the easiest offseason when it comes to off-the-field issues, being disciplined for positing anti-Semitic imaging on social media. On it, however, it does seem like the once mercurial receiver has matured to the point of embracing a leadership role.
Instead of being aloof and focusing on himself, Jackson actually picked up the phone to encourage his heir apparent.
“He just told me to go in with a mission on my mind,” Reagor said Tuesday when discussing Jackson. “Go in with a chip on my shoulder, and just know that I can make a big contribution."
In the spring that potential contribution was slow-tracked due to the pandemic with Doug Pederson saying that the Eagles would start Reagor off slowly at the Z position behind Jackson.
The opt-out of veteran Marquise Goodwin on Monday, along with the uncertain status of Alshon Jeffery, who was placed on the active/PUP list as he continues to rehab from Lisfranc surgery, has the coaching staff rethinking its earlier plans and trying to get Jackson and Reagor on the field together.
“I pride myself on being adaptive, being adaptable to every situation,” said Reagor. “And I feel like if I know the whole playbook, rather than just X or Z, then it’ll make it easier to move me around.”
The threat of having a vertical field stretcher in Jackson, along with a horizontal (and vertical) one in Reagor, is why the Eagles chose the former TCU star over the more accomplished Jefferson in April’s draft, an attempt to provide Wentz with a Kansas City-like dynamic.
"It’s the reason why this organization drafted me,” said Reagor. “They believed in me,"
Jackson's advice was to build on that belief and seize the moment as quickly as possible.
"(DeSean) said, 'Don’t just wait at the back, just go ahead and step in now.'”
-John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com's EagleMaven and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media. You can listen to John every Monday and Friday on SIRIUSXM’s Tony Bruno Show with Harry Mayes, and every Tuesday and Thursday with Eytan Shander on SBNation Radio. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen
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