Eagles' Jackson lacks elite stats

Posted: September 28, 2011

DESEAN JACKSON wants a new contract that will make him one of the highest-paid wide receivers in the NFL, and the sentiment of most Eagles fans is that the team should hurry up and give it to the little guy because: a) it's not their money; and b) he's pretty damn good.

There's no question that the Eagles would like to re-sign Jackson, who is in the final year of a rookie deal that will earn him just under $1 million in salary and bonuses this season.

The reason it hasn't happened yet is because there is a clear difference of opinion regarding his worth. His size (5-10, 175) and medical history (two concussions in the last 2 years) aren't helping bridge the worth gap.

"I just consider myself to be one of the best wide receivers in the NFL," Jackson said in August, shortly after another Pro Bowl wide receiver, Larry Fitzgerald, signed an 8-year, $120 million contract with the Arizona Cardinals.

Jackson is a game-changing pass-catcher who sends shivers down the spine of every cornerback who lines up across from him. He has as much presnap impact on a defense as any player in the league. No one, not even the Eagles front office, will deny that.

But is that enough to warrant him being one of the league's highest paid wideouts? In the NFL, players get paid for production, not for the number of sleepless nights they cause defensive coordinators. And the fact of the matter is, Jackson's pass-catching numbers pale in comparison to many of the league's other top wideouts.

I compiled the 2010-11 numbers of the 10 wide receivers who were either selected or played in the Pro Bowl last January. Jackson is dead last in receptions (57), receiving yards (1,209) and touchdown catches (seven), but first in yards per catch (21.2), third in 20-plus yard catches (23) and tied for first in 40-plus yard receptions (nine).

Jackson really hasn't been the same player since getting drilled by Falcons cornerback Dunta Robinson last October and suffering his second concussion in less than 11 months. He missed just one game, but in the 12 games he's played in since then, he's got just 40 receptions and four TD catches.

By comparison, the Eagles' other starting wideout, Jeremy Maclin, has 62 catches and six TDs in those same 12 games. Maclin has five more receiving first downs than Jackson (37-32) and just 23 fewer receiving yards (862-839).

Even Jason Avant, the Eagles' slot receiver, has more receptions than Jackson over that period (41), and just two fewer catches for first downs (30).

Jackson never is going to be a 80- or 90-catch guy. The most passes he's caught in a season has been 62, in both 2008 and '09. He is all about the big play. Quality not quantity. He's averaged an NFL-best 18.1 yards per catch since entering the league, including 22.5 last year. Fifty-eight of his 181 career receptions have covered 20-plus yards. Twenty-one have gone for 40-plus yards. But he's caught three or fewer passes in eight of his last 12 games. Has fewer than 53 receiving yards in seven of those 12 games.

Andy Reid isn't a coach who imposes his will on an opposing defense. He's a take-what-they-give-you guy. If a defense is determined to roll its coverage toward Jackson and bracket him and try to take him out of the game, Reid won't force the issue. He will have his quarterback take the path of least resistance and go elsewhere with the ball.

That said, it's not like Jackson has become a forgotten man in the offense. He's been targeted 87 times in the last 12 games, which is just six fewer times than Maclin. But Maclin has caught 66 percent of the passes that have been thrown in his direction. Jackson's catches-to-passes rate is 46 percent.

"Here's a problem, and there's no question this is an issue, " a personnel man for one NFL team told me before the season. "[Mike] Vick is no more than 6-foot tall and DeSean is 5-9, 5-10 tops. He's just flat-out hard to find at times. Especially when Vick is on the move and DeSean is dodging traffic.

"It's easy to find the big guys like Fitzgerald and guys like that. Hines Ward always seems to uncover and Ben [Roethlisberger] can find him when he's in trouble. I don't know that DeSean is that guy that Mike can find. First of all, he runs so many deep routes that, if you're 30 or 40 yards downfield, if you're scrambling, no matter how strong your arm is, it's not easy to get the ball to him. I think he just gets lost in the traffic sometimes."

So, we're talking about a small wide receiver with two recent concussions on his medical chart who can make SportsCenter-highlight plays, but also has a tendency to disappear for games at a time and has come up small in the postseason the last 2 years. We're talking about a guy who, right now, isn't even the top receiver on his team.

And we're talking about a team that already is paying tens of millions of dollars to a quarterback and to two cornerbacks and to a left tackle, and soon will have to do the same for Maclin and running back LeSean McCoy.

A few years back, the Eagles faced a similar contract dilemma with Brian Westbrook to the one they now are facing with Jackson. Westbrook, like Jackson, was a "different" type of player. He was a running back, but not your typical 25-carry-a-game running back.

He was as much a receiver as he was a running back. He was a guy Reid could move all over the formation and create mismatches against linebackers and safeties.

If he had been a workhorse running back, all you would've had to do was look at his rushing yards and been able to gauge his worth. But there weren't a lot of measuring sticks around for a guy like Westbrook. Eventually, the Eagles swallowed hard and paid him. And when the end came, it came quickly.

Now, the Eagles must decide Jackson's value. He says he's one of the best wide receivers in the NFL, but most of the numbers don't really support that contention. Especially the numbers since his last concussion Give him a Fitzgerald-like contract? Easy for you to say.


Send email to pdomo@aol.com.

For more Eagles coverage and opinion, read the Daily News' Eagles blog, Eagletarian, at www.eagletarian.com.

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