From Anxiety to Elation, DeSean Delivers
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - The expectation was unrealistic so DeSean Jackson simply ripped up the script and cobbled together a better one for his return to Lincoln Financial Field and the Philadelphia Eagles.
There was no bomb to the speedy 32-year-old on the Eagles first offensive play but a nearly five-year exile was erased with two of the most impactful home runs you will ever see, a 51-yard strike that woke the Eagles out of a 17-0 slumber, and a 53-yard bomb that put Philadelphia on top for good during a 32-27 win over the Washington Redskins on Sunday.
For Jackson, he went from anxiety to elation over a 48-hour period.
“It was a roller coaster the past 48 hours,” Jackson admitted. “... At the start of the game, it [the anxiety] went down. Literally, [Saturday] night going to sleep, all day in meetings, I was racing, I just couldn’t stay calm."
The two long touchdowns are the lede, his 30th and 31st over 50 yards during his storied career, but Jackson put together an all-around game in Doug Pederson's multi-formational offense in which he lined up both inside and outside.
The numbers read eight receptions on 10 targets for 154 yards. Meanwhile, six of his chances came on third down, including both touchdowns, as the Carson Wentz magic returned on football's most important down.
"I was overexcited like a kid before Christmas," Jackson explained. "I just know the reunion of me coming back and what I mean to this city and what the city means to me, being in green colors, and just being a part of this organization, this family, is something special to me.”
So special that Jackson turned into a vocal part of the messaging after a disastrous first half against a team the Eagles were supposed to beat.
“I’ve been in that [Redskins] locker room, I know how they are,” Jackson said of his former team in D.C. “That’s not saying anything bad about them, I just know how they are. I’m sure anybody going into halftime up, they’re going to feel like they have the game won.”
The messaging was one play.
“It was it’s going to take one play,” he said. “Being down 17-0 is obviously one of the things where you have to get going. One more score will put you down 24 and I don’t want to say it’s impossible, but it’s almost impossible, so we just knew coming into the locker room, it’s the mentality. It’s all a mentality thing here.”
Turns out it was two plays from Jackson, the first a 51-yard bomb with 4:19 left before intermission in which he showed off his vaunted tracking skills.
“When I saw that ball go up in the air, I knew it was [a touchdown],” said Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham. “I didn’t even have to look. I was just happy that they [Wentz and Jackson] finally got that connection down. There’s going to be more to come.”
Graham's prediction didn't take long as putting Jackson in the slot caused some confusion on the Washington back end resulting in the best deep threat in the game racing through a blown coverage for a 53-yard score sith 5:07 to go in the third quarter, the tipping point that put the Eagles on top for good.
Jackson wasn't even the intended receiver on the first scoring play.
"I wasn’t the intended receiver on that play. It was a clear route but Carson [Wentz] said stay alert," he explained. "That play was actually intended for Alshon [Jeffery] on the deep cross route but the way they played their coverage was like in and out. [CB] Josh Norman was outside and I was inside the slot and he was supposed to be guarding Alshon, but when I went, he took me. The safety cut down on the route and he threw the ball and I just ran at it. Great feeling.”
And the second?
"They play a zone defense and it is different because I was in the slot and not the outside receiver," Jackson said. "So when I was in the slot, you have a nickel corner on me and then you have a safety that tries to cut different crossing routes and just has eyes in the backfield. We knew all week, once they get into this coverage and we see them giving their signal, Carson [Wentz] had the opportunity to check me a couple times on a certain route and we just got it and they gave us the courage we needed.”
And the jolt the Eagles needed.
“He comes up to you [after a touchdown] and kind of high-fives you a little bit and kind of whispers in your ear like, ‘Hey, let’s keep it going’ type of thing,” Pederson said. “That’s him. He obviously leads by example He’s great to have in the locker room, and we’re just fortunate that today was his day.”
And now Jackson can turn finally the page on the expectations.
“I’m just happy it’s over,” he said.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen