Sunday, November 13, 2011

Eagles might want to start thinking about life after Jackson

By John McMullen

PHILADELPHIA (The Phanatic Magazine) - The NFL's so-called "diva wide receiver" has become almost a cliche over the years and no one understands the problem and its origins more than the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Birds got the best and worst of the Aretha Franklin of the NFL divas in Terrell Owens and are now dealing with the disgruntled, diminutive DeSean Jackson.

Owens was more of a look at me type always craving the spotlight, so much so that he actually enjoyed doing those push-ups from his driveway in Moorestown as long as the satellite trucks were there. Jackson, on the other hand, is going the passive aggressive route.

D-Jack arrived in Philadelphia from Cal as an undersized second round pick with a chip on his shoulder, quickly turning into one of the game's best home run hitters.

With blinding 4.2 speed, Jackson overcame his generously listed 5-foot-10, 175-pound frame to turn into an All-Pro. In fact, he became the first player in NFL history to earn Pro Bowl honors at two positions -- wide receiver and punt returner -- in 2009.

Since joining the league in '08 Jackson leads the NFL in touchdowns of 50-plus yards with 14 but things have derailed a bit in 2011, culminating with an inactive designation for him on Sunday against Arizona after he missed a team meeting on Saturday.

According to various sources, Jackson slept through his alarm clock and showed up as the meeting ended, angering head coach Andy Reid. WIP's Howard Eskin went even further reporting that Jackson, who was also late to a meeting last Saturday as well, was out Friday night and never made it home.

Of course, all of this childish stomp the feet behavior is contract related. Jackson is in the final year of his rookie deal that pays him a modest $600,000.

Even the most ardent Jackson detractors will admit he is grossly underpaid but he's also a tough player to get a beat on. Despite his gaudy numbers, Jackson isn't a true No. 1 receiver. He's had concussion problems and is not the type of guy that can catch 10 balls on Sundays or keep the chains moving on a
consistent basis.

On the other hand, Jackson's contributions often don't show up in the box score. His blazing speed usually keeps at least one safety playing in the Delaware River and opens up space underneath for players like Jeremy Maclin, Brent Celek and LeSean McCoy.

All that said, the production has always been there in the past and now it has dipped dramatically. Jackson has had a disappointing season thus far, pulling in 29 receptions for 503 yards and two touchdowns. As a punt returner the dynamic one has been far worse, returning just nine kicks for a dismal 3.7 average including a key fumble last week that turned the  momentum toward Chicago.

For one day Jackson's selfish ploy worked. Michael Vick had perhaps his worst game as an Eagle Sunday, completing 16-of-34 passes for 128 yards and a pair of interceptions as the Eagles fell to the hapless Cardinals 21-17. Vick was able to convert just 3-of-15 third downs and manged to find his wide receivers a total of eight times and really could have had four picks if things broke the Cardinals way.

Despite his unprofessional behavior Jackson will still likely get a big paycheck somewhere next season but it's becoming less and less likely that it will be in Philadelphia.

And that's not necessarily a bad thing. Since Jackson has arrived the Eagles have used his big play ability as a crutch and have become less and less likely to grind out a 12-play, 80-yard drive.

Relying on possession types like Jason Avant, Steve Smith and Riley Cooper would make Philadelphia far less explosive but could make it a far more well-rounded club.

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