Posted on: August 21, 2008 4:39 pm
Edited on: August 21, 2008 4:41 pm
Since Terrell Owens left Philadelphia in a huff in 2005, the Eagles have been desperate for a game-breaking receiver. Spurned in their effort to sign Randy Moss away from the Patriots this offseason, the club spent a second-round pick on DeSean Jackson. While it appeared at the time that the Eagles were adding another short, speedy receiver to their corps of wideouts, we now know that they picked someone who can attract quite a crowd.
And now with Kevin Curtis sidelined with a sports hernia for the start of the regular season, Jackson is cruising to a starting job.
Aside from a hamstring strain that kept him off the field at the start of training camp, Jackson has been lights-out with the Eagles. He's displayed his break-neck speed in practice and learned from a good mentor that studying the playbook is the most important thing he can do. It's paid off: Jackson is leading the team in receptions this preseason with 122 yards on a dozen catches.
In his most recent preseason game vs. the Panthers, Jackson started and saw time with the first- and second-team offense (thanks to teammate Reggie Brown leaving early with a hamstring injury). His seven-catch, 71-yard performance was impressive. So were the 14 passes he was targeted for, including a deep lob down the left sideline where Jackson had his man beat by a yard but couldn't catch up to Donovan McNabb's pass. By the start of the regular season, that will be fixed.
Jackson spoke after the game and talked about how he developed into a reliable offensive threat so early on in the preseason, who he's modeled his game after, and much more about his spot with the Eagles.
You saw a lot of reps against the Panthers, playing with the first- and second-team offense. Did you know coming in that you'd see so much playing time?
Jackson: "I did. It was great."
What feeling do you have when you're asked to contribute so much right away?
Jackson: "It's great. There can't be no better feeling than to be in this offense with Donovan, Westbrook and all of the receivers. I'm just going to keep doing my work and every practice, every game, I'll just do the best I can."
Does it surprise you that you were thrown at 14 times?
Jackson: "I'm not surprised. They've been giving me a lot of balls in practice. I'm just happy, but I'm a young rookie in the NFL and I've got a lot of work to keep doing."
You're listed at 5-foot-10, and I imagine that you've had to defend your size at every level you've played at.
Jackson: "I can't worry about my size. It is what it is, and that's what you get. You have got to go out there and play football and have fun."
Would you say you play beyond your size because of your great vertical and the way you play?
Jackson: "I feel like I do. I feel like I don't play nothing like my size. I can catch the ball across the middle, I can do whatever I need to get open and help this team."
Is there someone in the pros now who you feel like you've modeled your game after?
Jackson: "Steve Smith. I watched him when I was younger. I've always liked his after-the-catch ability and what he's able to bring to the football field, scoring deep touchdowns and being very quick and versatile."
It's well documented that you've worked on your game with Jerry Rice. What are some things that he may have taught you that you've run into in these first few games?
Jackson: "The biggest thing Jerry taught me was to work hard, understand the playbook, put in the extra work and just do the little things to get better to stay in this league for a long time. The biggest thing for him was, he was in the league for 17 or 18 years, and every year he worked like it was his first year. Nothing changed, he kept doing the hard work. So I'm just trying to do that."
Did he teach you anything about the West Coast offense?
Jackson: "No. He's out of the game now and he doesn't really know this offense (compared to the version he was in). Coach Marty (Mornhinweg) used to coach him, and so there's a little similarity. Like I said, the biggest thing he taught me was to stick my head in that playbook."
What's the hardest part about learning this offense?
Jackson: "There's just a lot of plays. That's the hardest thing. Once you feel like you've got the offense, there are more things that come in there that you're like 'Whoa.' That's the biggest thing."