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DeSean Distraction: Why The Eagles Wideout Needs To Just Play Ball

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DeSean Jackson #10 of the Philadelphia Eagles had a spectacular receiving day Sept. 15 versus the San Diego Chargers. But an unnecessary-roughness penalty by the wide receiver contributed to a crucial flip of field position in the fourth quarter. Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images.
DeSean Jackson #10 of the Philadelphia Eagles had a spectacular receiving day Sept. 15 versus the San Diego Chargers. But an unnecessary-roughness penalty by the wide receiver contributed to a crucial flip of field position in the fourth quarter. Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images.

I get it. DeSean Jackson brings to the football field a toughness that belies his 5-10, 175-pound frame. Mix in the speed to get behind or separate from virtually any defensive back, and you've got an integral element of coach Chip Kelly's spread offense.

You might say, two games into the 2013 season, that Jackson has been "money" for the Eagles' offense, having accumulated a league-high 297 yards on 16 catches with a pair of touchdowns. His yards/route average of 4.4 is tops in the NFL among players with at least 10 targets. QB Michael Vick has connected on nearly 70 percent of the passes he's thrown to Jackson, none of which have been dropped.

And those stats don't include a few "what-could-have-been" moments during the Eagles 33-30 home-opener loss in Week 2 against the San Diego Chargers:

  • - On the final drive of the first half, Jackson blew by the Chargers' secondary, but Vick overthrew him by about five yards on what would have been a 69-yard score. Eagles K Alex Henery missed a 46-yard field goal attempt to end the drive.
  • - With the Chargers leading 20-10 with 9:59 left in the third quarter, Vick overthrew an open Jackson "by about six inches" as described by CBS broadcaster Dan Dierdorf. The play clearly would have gone for a 79-yard score had the pass been completed.
  • - Four plays later, the incomplete bomb seemed a moot point when Jackson hauled in a 37-yard TD strike from Vick. The play was called back on an illegal formation penalty, and the Eagles had to settle for a field goal.

"We left a lot of points out there," Kelly said in his postgame remarks. "A touchdown called back, a missed field goal, some plays we should have made. You can't do that."

Unmentioned by the coach, however, was Jackson's dead-ball, unnecessary-roughness penalty on a Vick touchdown run that gave the Eagles a 27-23 lead with 7:13 left in the fourth quarter. Jackson had been pushed by a Chargers defender on the play, and retaliated in view of an official to draw the flag.

With the ensuing kickoff backed up 15 yards, the Chargers immediately gained prime field position when Fozzy Whittaker's 28-yard return and wild-scramble fumble moved the ball all the way to Philadelphia's 39 yard line. Seven plays and less than four minutes later, the Chargers regained the lead, 30-27, on Philip Rivers' third touchdown pass of the day to WR Eddie Royal.

Granted, it was an unlikely sequence in a game in which neither defense seemed to be able to make a key stop. (The two offenses combined for 1,050 total yards.) Nonetheless, Jackson's senseless penalty played a role in the Eagles relinquishing hard-fought momentum.

Vick summed it up after the loss: “We all have to learn to be professionals at all times and keep our cool. Sometimes, it’s tough to do, but we all have one common goal — to win the football game. Anything that doesn’t relate to that thinking is irrational thinking. So DeSean has to learn. He’ll think about it. He will make a better decision next time.”

Eagles fans have good reason to be skeptical, given this latest incident in Jackson's five-year trail of in-the-battle indiscretions. Nonetheless, those are words to the wise directed at a target on track for a historic season in an offense custom-suited to his talents.