Jackson provides a quick, early highlight

DeSean Jackson celebrates his 47-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter.
DeSean Jackson celebrates his 47-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter. (YONG KIM / Staff Photographer)
Posted: August 10, 2013

Michael Vick took the snap on the Eagles' fifth play on offense and gave a weak play-action fake. He immediately looked right, down the sideline.

There, DeSean Jackson was speeding down the numbers, gaining inside leverage on Aqib Talib. Vick stared him down, then let the ball go.

By the time Vick released the ball, Jackson had gained a step on Talib, and the throw was true. Jackson leaped past Talib and rolled into the end zone. His first target of the preseason resulted in a 47-yard touchdown.

There are questions nearly everywhere on this team. The defense couldn't stop Tom Brady. Chip Kelly is still evaluating the quarterbacks. The offensive line is dealing with injuries. Jackson, though, has been a steady force all camp.

"Obviously, he's a great weapon for us to use at our disposal," Kelly said. "I thought Mike did a great job of reading the coverage and throwing it in time."

Season-ending injuries to Arrelious Benn and Jeremy Maclin make Jackson's role all the more crucial. Maclin's absence robs the wideouts of some explosiveness. Without Benn, the receiving corps lacks depth.

But Jackson has made big plays throughout training camp. In joint practices against the Patriots, he caught several long passes from both top quarterback candidates, usually streaking down the right side. On one, he beat Logan Ryan for a 50-yard touchdown. More often, he clashed with Talib.

Jackson and Talib became friendly in college and have remained close. Jackson clearly won the duel Tuesday and had another productive day Wednesday, though the matchup was closer to even. Talib is the Patriots' No. 1 cornerback.

"I'm the type of receiver who goes out there, regardless of who is covering me, try to go out there and beat whoever is in front of me," Jackson said this week.

Jackson caught 45 passes for 700 yards and two touchdowns last year through 11 games. He missed the final five games with fractured ribs.

In past years, Jackson has provided big-play ability, but he struggled to break long receptions last season. He finished with just one reception for longer than 50 yards, matching his rookie year for the lowest total of his career.

The performance Friday night and his play in camp are reassuring for whoever wins the quarterback job. Jackson beat Talib with his straightaway speed.

The Patriots had Talib in single coverage on the play. Without help from a safety, Talib had no chance. After Jackson made the catch, he rolled over and popped up in one motion, and then danced in the end zone.

Click here for complete coverage of Philadelphia Eagles training camp.

Contact Zach Helfand at zhelfand@philly.com. Follow on Twitter @zhelfand.

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