Marcus Hayes: Eagles need Jackson, despite immaturity

DeSean Jackson has issues but the Eagles' offense is better with him than without.
DeSean Jackson has issues but the Eagles' offense is better with him than without. (YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)
Posted: March 06, 2012

AT HIS locker in Seattle, DeSean Jackson made naked his true character.

He reacted with a violent disdain at accusations that, during a loss to the Seahawks, he ignored teammates on the sideline; that he was unprepared for the game; that he was uninterested in the team's objectives.

This, 3 weeks after he was suspended for a game - a loss to Arizona - and just 4 days after a cowardly performance against the Patriots, in which he was benched for the fourth quarter.

Jackson could have maturely responded with a mild refutation; instead, despite his recent history of punk actions, he refused to acknowledge the questions. With indignation.

So what?

"Character" does not create 25-yard cushions on his side of the field. "Character" does not give the Eagles the most feared offensive weapon on the planet.

Sadly, absurdly, a lack of character might keep Jackson from being paid what he is worth, and that might keep him from playing his best.

The latest signing of a flamboyant receiver to a generous contract makes that all the more apparent.

The Bills' Stevie Johnson reportedly got 5 years and $36.25 million, with $19.5 million guaranteed. That last bit is the important part.

The Eagles on Friday slapped Jackson with their franchise tag, a $9.4 million, 1-year, guaranteed windfall, assuming Jackson signs it. All signs point to that happening.

Another year playing under the tag, and there you have it - nearly the $19.5 million Johnson gets guaranteed.

If Johnson is worth almost $20 million guaranteed today, Jackson is worth more. Plenty more.

Santonio Holmes snared $24 million guaranteed from the Jets. That's a nice place for Jackson to land.

Forget the numbers. Jackson's value goes far beyond his numbers.

Johnson barely got on the field his first two seasons. However, over the past two seasons he caught 158 passes for 2,077 yards and 17 touchdowns. Nice.

Over the past two seasons, Jackson caught 105 passes for 2,017 yards and 10 touchdowns and added another score as a punt returner - but those numbers only hint at Jackson's value.

In 2009, his second season, Jackson caught nine touchdown passes, returned two punts for TDs and added a rushing touchdown. Jackson averaged 52.8 yards per score - the most in NFL history for any player with at least 10 touchdowns in a season.

There has never been a player like him, in the Eagles' franchise or anywhere else.

In 2009, Stevie Johnson caught two passes. For 10 yards.

Please.

In 2007, his second season, Holmes caught 52 passes for 942 yards and eight touchdowns for the Steelers. He then caught 134 balls for 2,069 yards and 10 total touchdowns in his third and fourth seasons, combined.

After a fifth productive year, he got paid. As should Jackson after 4 years; the sooner, the better. Since Jackson's explosive 2009 season, teams have done everything to keep him from beating them. They punt out of bounds, or they pooch those ridiculous popups - anything to keep Jackson from fielding a kick with space to run.

Continuously, obsessively, when Jackson lines up as a receiver, they roll the safety to his side.

When the Eagles beat the Giants on Nov. 20, New York defended Jackson like he carried a disease, often with a three-man quarantine.

He still caught six passes for 88 yards, but, as a decoy, he made space for Riley Cooper (!) to catch five balls for 75 yards and a touchdown, roughly 25 percent of Cooper's contributions for all of last season. LeSean McCoy rolled for 113 yards on 23 carries.

Jackson also ran a punt back 51 yards to set up the Eagles' first touchdown in that game.

He did this against the eventual Super Bowl champions, a team burned to embarrassment by him on the same field a year before. And they could do nothing to stop him.

Gauge that value.

Understand this: Without Jackson, McCoy is not McCoy of the league-high 20 touchdowns and 1,309 rushing yards; Michael Vick is not Michael Vick.

Against Arizona, McCoy managed 81 yards on 14 carries; four of those carries went for no gain or negative yardage. Vick, playing injured, it turned out, compiled a season-low passer rating of 32.5.

Against New England, with Jackson clearly uninspired and with Vick sidelined, McCoy gained 31 yards on 10 carries; five times McCoy was stopped for 2 yards or less.

Whether it was a result of shoddy blocking or more committed defense inside the box, when teams keyed on McCoy, he could not produce.

With Jackson, McCoy is an MVP candidate.

There is no evidence that $9.4 million in guaranteed money will either satisfy Jackson's thirst for cash or cause him to play with the abandon he displayed his first three seasons.

Playing on a 1-year deal, where will his head be against the vicious Ravens and Steelers next season? He tanked in the middle of 2011; so, how hard will he play if the Eagles again hit the halfway mark playing poor football? Will he ever cross the middle again after concussions in 2009 and 2010 left him traumatized?

Consider this: If Jackson is not suspended against Arizona, or if he plays hard against New England, he changes those games. Maybe they're wins.

Which means the Eagles make the playoffs - not the nine-win Giants. Remember what those nine-win Giants just did?

Every game counts. Every win.

Better to gamble that $24 million in guaranteed money will mollify Jackson's ego. Perhaps that sort of investment truly will make Jackson "all-in," as Andy Reid vainly insisted Jackson was that night in Seattle.

Clearly, it is time for the Eagles to go "all-in" with Jackson.

Character be damned.


Contact Marcus Hayes at hayesm@phillynews.com

|
|
|
|
|