Ashley Fox: Kolb's inexperience keeps Jackson from getting ball

The numbers don't lie: Eagles wideout DeSean Jackson gets the ball more and gains more yards when Michael Vick is under center.
The numbers don't lie: Eagles wideout DeSean Jackson gets the ball more and gains more yards when Michael Vick is under center.
Posted: October 12, 2010

Michael Vick must be sleeping in a hyperbaric chamber, living in the whirlpool, pedaling the bike for miles, and praying to the football gods that he has done enough to ease the pain in his chest. The Atlanta Falcons are up next, and there is no doubt that Vick would love nothing better than to stick it to his former team - again - on Sunday.

That said, there is likely one person who wants Vick to return to the Eagles' lineup even more than Vick does. That person is DeSean Jackson.

Jackson would never say it, of course. That would be too scandalous, too controversial, too much a back stab at Kevin Kolb, the man Jackson wanted to be the man, at least until Vick burst back onto the scene.

But the numbers don't lie. They tell a tale of two players, one with a quarterback who buys him time until Jackson gets open, one with a quarterback who sees that Jackson is covered and never looks back.

With Kolb under center for parts of two games and another full one, Jackson has caught four of the 13 passes thrown his way, for an average of 9.25 yards per catch. That's right: 9.25 yards per catch. And zero touchdowns.

With Vick under center for parts of two games and two other full ones, Jackson has caught 14 of the 23 passes thrown his way, for an average of 23.1 yards per catch. That's 324 receiving yards and two touchdowns.

With Vick throwing the ball, Jackson has six catches of 20 or more yards, including four catches of 40 or more yards, the second most of any receiver in the National Football League. With Kolb, Jackson's longest reception is 20 yards.

It's simple. Vick has the confidence and the experience to wait for Jackson, who routinely is getting bumped at the line of scrimmage and double teamed, to put a sliver of daylight between himself and his defender(s). Vick knows that if he can buy an extra second or two with his legs, Jackson will reward him. The defense will eventually break down.

Kolb simply doesn't have the experience or the patience to wait for Jackson to create downfield. It is understandable. Kolb is not as mobile as Vick and certainly at this point in his young career doesn't have the vision that Vick does. So he sees Jackson blanketed, then turns and looks for Option No. 2 and Option No. 3. After that, there isn't time to go back to Option No. 1.

So consequently, when you combine Jackson's Jekyll and Hyde-like statistics, through Sunday's games he ranks 12th in the NFL with 361 receiving yards. But his 18 catches are tied for 47th with seven other players, including teammate Jeremy Maclin. Eagles running back LeSean McCoy has 10 more catches than Jackson, a reflection of Kolb's comfort dumping the ball to McCoy when his receivers are covered.

"DeSean is a spectacular player, so obviously he gets a little bit of attention and they are doing certain things to disrupt his rhythm," Kolb said after the Eagles beat San Francisco late Sunday. "We'll find ways to get him the ball. As good as he is, we have to get the ball in his hands, and we'll find ways to do it and make sure he's one of our most dynamic players. He's got to touch it."

Yes Jackson does, although he won't say it, at least not yet.

"He's a classy guy and he understands the game, but everybody wants the ball," Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg told me after the game. "And, I want him to want the ball, and I'm going to get him the ball a little bit more. Now his yards per catch are really high. That's a good thing. That's a great thing, but I'd like to get him the ball a little bit more."

It bears repeating: Yards per catch with Kolb throwing are 9.25; yards per catch with Vick throwing are 23.1.

Mornhinweg said that the type of coverages Jackson is drawing this year reminds him of what the great Jerry Rice used to see, which, if true, is quite the compliment to Jackson. After following up a strong rookie year by catching 62 passes for 1,156 yards and nine touchdowns in 2009, there's no doubt the secret is out. Jackson can play.

"The last couple of ball games our opponents are doing almost everything in their power to take DeSean away, and even a little bit more last week [against Washington]," Mornhinweg said. "These are things that Jerry Rice saw, and you've got to deal with them, and it's my responsibility. You saw we moved DeSean basically all over. We've got to continue that, because people are really going uncommonly out of the way to make sure they get a jam on him, to make sure he doesn't get a free release, to make sure he's doubled."

That's why it is more important than ever for Vick to come back, and it is why after the San Francisco game Andy Reid said that Vick is still the starting quarterback and that "we won't get that controversy going there."

Looking at the numbers, there should be no controversy. Vick puts the Eagles' biggest playmaker into a position to make plays. So far, Kolb has not, although with Vick still nursing a chest injury, Kolb should get another chance this week, no matter how badly Jackson might want Vick to play.


Contact staff writer Ashley Fox at 215-854-5064 or afox@phillynews.com.

Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/AshleyMFox.

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