Eagles' Jackson nears yardage milestone

DeSean Jackson is just 15 yards from the third 1,000-yard receiving season of his career.
DeSean Jackson is just 15 yards from the third 1,000-yard receiving season of his career. (YONG KIM / Staff Photographer)
Posted: November 30, 2013

DeSean Jackson went two seasons without reaching 1,000 yards, devaluing any argument that Jackson was among the NFL's top receivers. Rejuvenated in his first season under coach Chip Kelly, Jackson needs just 15 yards Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals for his first 1,000-yard season since 2010, and the third in his career.

"I think this year some things were able to fall in place for me that I had some big games here and there throughout the season and helped my team win," Jackson said. "Whenever my name is called, I try to do my thing and make the best of my ability and continue to just be that spark for this team with big plays."

A mere 15 yards would not seem much of a challenge for Jackson, who averages 89.5 yards per game. But a big performance will be more difficult with the presence of Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson, one of the NFL's top defensive backs. Peterson is one of the NFL's fastest cornerbacks - he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.34 seconds at the 2011 combine - and that speed goes with a 6-foot-1, 219-pound frame.

Eagles offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said Peterson's size is the first thing that jumps out at him, because Peterson can play bump-and-run. Peterson's ball skills also impress Shurmur. The coordinator said there's a "good chance" Peterson will track Jackson, and that matchup might determine the effectiveness of the Eagles' passing game.

Once Jackson gains 15 yards, another benchmark could be within sight. Mike Quick's 1,409 receiving yards in 1983 is the Eagles' all-time record. Jackson needs 425 yards to eclipse that mark - or an average of 85 yards per game. Jackson is on pace for 1,433 yards.

"I think this is the year for it to be topped," Quick said over the phone Thursday, joking that he'll cry if Jackson does. "DeSean is a good person to do it.'

Quick said 85 yards per game is not a difficult pace to maintain during the final five games, especially with the way the Eagles offense functions.

Jackson is also in position to endure a poor performance because he's capable of big games. Jackson has two of the top 10 receiving performances in Eagles history, including a 193-yard performance against San Diego on Sept. 15. He's the only player who appears on that list twice.

"On any Sunday, DeSean's capable of putting up 150, or even if he's really hot or they use him a lot, I can easily see him getting close to 200 yards in a game," Quick said. "It's just a matter of how the matchups are going to go and how they feed DeSean, and it's really based on what defenses do."

Kelly's offenses at Oregon seldom featured a dominant No. 1 receiver. The only player to top 1,000 receiving yards in a season during his six years at Oregon was Jeff Maehl, who is now an Eagles reserve. Kelly attributed the lack of 1,000-yard receivers to the amount of games Oregon played with a lead, but the ball was also spread around to different players. A running back once led the team in receptions and yards.

Jackson's numbers might not be as impressive if Jeremy Maclin didn't suffer an injury in training camp. Jackson became the team's undisputed top receiver, and he now has 32.1 percent of the team's receiving yards. That percentage can be higher - the five receivers ahead of him in the league all have a greater percentage of the team's receiving yards.

Kelly has also featured Jackson in the red zone more this season. Two of his seven touchdowns have come inside the 20-yard line, which is the same as the last two seasons combined.

"Chip has done a great job coming in and giving me opportunities in the red zone," Jackson said. "I think in the past a lot of times I've been taken out down there in the red zone and not able to get some opportunity to make plays down there. The confidence level in me down there in the red zone definitely plays a big part of the offense."

Riley Cooper is often considered a better red-zone threat because of his size, and Cooper has three scores in that area. But Cooper has emerged as more of a complete receiver during the last few weeks, which Quick said would help Jackson continue on a record-setting pace. With defenses more concerned about Cooper, Jackson could face more advantageous coverages.

Quick became aware that the record could be in peril when the team's public relations department revealed Jackson's season-long projections. He thought Terrell Owens would break the mark in 2004 before Owens' injury.

"But this should be the year," Quick said.

The first milestone would be reached with 15 yards on Sunday. Then, it's a race against time for the next 410.

Extra point. Safety Earl Wolff (knee) is the only player on the team's injury report. Every other player was a full participant during a two-hour Thanksgiving practice.


zberman@phillynews.com

@ZBerm

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