CHARLOTTE, N.C. - The Eagles have only one wide receiver who could catch just two passes for 9 yards and still have a major impact on the outcome of a game.
His name: DeSean Jackson.
Even though he did little damage catching the football, Jackson made game-changing plays today as the Eagles' punt returner, Wildcat quarterback, and on a reverse during the team's 38-10 win over the Carolina Panthers.
"He's an explosive player," Eagles coach Andy Reid said. "He did a nice job all the way around. He had a great return. We did a nice job blocking for him, but he also hit it."
The great return was an 85-yard punt return for a touchdown early in the second quarter that gave the Eagles a 17-7 lead. It was the second-longest punt return in Eagles history. Only Vai Sikahema's 87-yarder against the New York Giants in 1992 was longer.
"The punt-return team did a great job of setting me up," Jackson said. "I got a good crease and I hit the crease, and from there I saw the punter and I just made him miss."
It was Jackson's second career punt return for a touchdown.
Jackson also had an 8-yard run out of the Wildcat formation and a 25-yard end around. He also had a nice handoff to fullback Leonard Weaver for an 11-yard run and a first down.
Even though Michael Vick is due back in Week 3, Jackson said the Eagles will continue to run the Wildcat formation with him taking snaps from center.
"The Wildcat is not going to go anywhere," Jackson said. "I'll be back there with Mike and without him."
Jackson also drew a celebration penalty after a touchdown, although it wasn't on his punt return. After tight end Brent Celek scored on a 9-yard pass from quarterback Donovan McNabb, Jackson came running across the field and flopped in the end zone.
It's a no-no to celebrate by going to your knees in the NFL.
"I fell to the ground and the ball hit me," Jackson said. "Whatever it was, I'm just out there having a good time."
Reid didn't like it.
"He got on me a little bit, but it wasn't planned," Jackson said. "It just happened."
Jackson said he is the Eagles' emergency quarterback, which meant if Kevin Kolb had been injured after replacing an injured McNabb today, he would have been called into action.
"I kept telling Kevin, 'Don't get hurt,' " Jackson said. "We did practice some things last week."
The Macho man
Macho Harris admitted he was nervous.
How could he not be?
The Eagles free safety was starting in his first NFL game only days after he was given the job full-time. In the early going, though, it showed.
Harris missed an open tackle on a DeAngelo Williams run and looked sluggish trying to chase Carolina quarterback Jake Delhomme on the Panthers' touchdown-producing opening drive. But the rookie out of Virginia Tech gained his composure - as did the Eagles' defense.
"A little bit of jitters in the beginning of the game," Harris said. "That's it. After that you get settled, and the second series, I was settled."
On that Panthers possession, Harris was lined up opposite Pro Bowl receiver Steve Smith, who was in the left slot. Smith cut across the middle, Harris shadowed him, and Delhomme threw behind his man. The ball deflected to Eagles cornerback Sheldon Brown, who picked up the first of two interceptions.
The Eagles would go on to score three points off the turnover when David Akers booted a 49-yard field goal.
Harris finished with one tackle and one pass defended and should have had an interception at one point, but it was a solid start for the rookie stepping into the vacancy left by Brian Dawkins, who is now with Denver.
"You're talking about a young player, a rookie, who in my opinion - again, not having watched the film - handled himself very well," Eagles defensive coordinator Sean McDermott said.
Harris became the first Eagles rookie to start at safety on opening day since Wes Hopkins did so in 1983. Randy Logan also started at safety in 1973.
Quintin Demps, who had the starting free-safety spot at the beginning of the preseason, suffered a hamstring strain, according to Reid. Demps was called for a personal-foul penalty when he ran into Captain Munnerlyn as he was attempting to field a punt. . . . The Eagles' inactive players were wide receivers Brandon Gibson and Reggie Brown, safety Sean Jones, center Mike McGlynn, defensive end Jason Babin and injured linebacker Joe Mays (shoulder), guard Todd Herremans (foot) and tackle Shawn Andrews (back). . . . The Eagles scored offensive, defensive and special-teams touchdowns in same game for the first time since a Dec. 24, 1994, game at Cincinnati.
The Birds' defense forced seven turnovers (five interceptions, two fumbles), the highest total since they forced seven at St. Louis on Jan. 2, 2000. It is also the highest interception total since Sept. 30, 1996 against Dallas, when they also posted five. . . . Running back Brian Westbrook scored his 67th career touchdown when he caught a 4-yard pass in the second quarter. He is tied for third place in team history with Tommy McDonald. He trails only Harold Carmichael (79) and Steve Van Buren (77). . . . The Eagles are 5-6 in season openers during Reid's tenure. Including last year's opening-day 38-3 win over the Rams, the Eagles have won their last two opening games by a combined score of 76-13.