Eagles' DeSean Jackson drops ball again when it counts most

Posted: November 27, 2011

When DeSean Jackson dropped what should have been a 49-yard touchdown bomb, it neatly summed up his day and the 2011 Eagles as a whole.

The Eagles were trailing 31-13 late in the third quarter. Jackson, who sees himself as a leader and a playmaker, got behind New England's defense. Vince Young lofted a pass that dropped onto Jackson's hands in the end zone.

Only Jackson didn't finish the job, as has been the case for so many facets of this disappointing team. A pretty design that seemed like it would work resulted in an incompletion, boos and failure where success seemed possible. Before long Jackson was sent to the bench to watch his teammates close out a 38-20 humiliation.

"I know I'm a better receiver and there were plays I should have made, so no excuses behind that. I just didn't have my best game today," Jackson said after. "It's frustrating but just gotta figure it out."

One of the plays he should have made could have prevented the game from turning so lopsided so quickly. On a third down from New England's 4, Young put a pass on Jackson's hands inside the end zone. Only Jackson missed it and crumpled to the turf before a looming defender could get a piece of him. Instead of clawing to within four points heading into halftime, the Eagles settled for a field goal and a 21-13 deficit.

Jackson was asked after the game if staying healthy is on his mind when he plays.

"Always. Always got to keep your head on a swivel," he said. And how about on that first drop? "What'chu think?" Jackson asked as he walked away.

Most people watching would think that Jackson has been distracted by his unsettled contract and that instead of using it as motivation, has more often shrunk. That he has not measured up to his own standard, which he described last week as shining a light on his teammates.

Jackson had four catches for 73 yards Sunday, but he was targeted 10 times. He had at least three drops, including the two that could have produced 14 desperately needed points for a team playing without its leading receiver and starting quarterback. This coming two games after being benched for missing a team meeting.

His drop on the deep ball came on the kind of play that is supposed to make Jackson elite.

He was not the only player to come up small Sunday or in this season as a whole. But he is a star whose blurring likeness adorns the side of the Eagles' stadium. He gets added attention from fans, from defenses and the media. That is the price of the stardom Jackson so clearly covets. That status also demands playing great more often than not, and lifting your team when they are down.

"He didn't play well. He knew that, so you fight through it. I don't think the contract had anything to do with it," said LeSean McCoy, one of Jackson's close friends. "Everybody plays bad sometimes, he's entitled to that."

McCoy said the Eagles need Jackson, but his comments had a truthful edge he might not have intended: "We need everybody, and the bigger players you need even more."

Soon after dropping that deep pass, Jackson was benched.

"He has to do a better job," said coach Andy Reid. "I just wanted to give the other guys an opportunity."

Jackson's teammates would grind out the final miserable minutes of the game before a nearly empty stadium. Chad Hall, Riley Cooper and Jason Avant ran routes with all hope gone. Jackson sat by center Jamaal Jackson and tackle Winston Justice, two former Eagles building blocks banished to the bench this year. Eventually he was left by himself.

"It was just a decision that was made. So as a player I've just kind of got to live with it," Jackson said. "I've just got to keep coming to work and giving my best effort and play [my] hardest."

He then gave the refrain heard from so many Eagles this year: "I couldn't even dream that record for this team and the talent we have."

But 4-7 is the ugly reality. And Jackson has not helped his team rise above it.

Contact staff writer Jonathan Tamari at 215-854-5214, jtamari@phillynews.com or @JonathanTamari on Twitter.


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