DeSEAN JACKSON leaves you open-mouthed in wonder. It is what he does. He does it with these big plays, enormous plays, game-changers. You would think that opposing defenses would take him away at all costs, but it hasn't happened, not yet. Once or twice a game, they leave him so free that the defender isn't even in the frame of the snapshot.
He is more exciting than Brian Westbrook was, and that is about as big a mouthful as most of us has ever said. He gives the Eagles' offense the belief that it is never out of anything. When you add in the punt returns, you are talking about something we really have never seen around here.
But here's the thing: Mike Quick had a better overall receiving year in 1983 than Jackson is having this season, and Terrell Owens had a better overall receiving year in 2004. They remain the standard, at least since the NFL merger, for Eagles receivers - and Irving Fryar had a pretty good year in 1997, too.
It is quite true that Jackson has a chance to shatter that standard - but he hasn't done it yet. Listening to Quick describe Jackson's exploits on the Eagles' radio broadcasts - listening to the sheer delight in his voice - tells you all you need to know about this kid and the wow-factor that he brings to the game. Quick never had that and Owens never had it at quite the same level, that wow.
But what they had was size, presence, durability, predictability. There was an elegance to their games when they had those great seasons for the Eagles. There was a sturdiness, too - Quick was an especially good blocker, and both Quick and Owens were great, physical red- zone targets when they needed to be.
At his smaller size, Jackson will never be any of that. But in the laser-lit NFL of the 21st century, the jolts that he provides the Eagles' offense are the perfect style for the times. With nine catches of more than 40 yards already this season, with three games left to play, he has tied T.O.'s mark of 2004. Best as you can tell from the box scores, Quick also had nine in 1983.
And even though it doesn't look like it, especially when the Eagles play against the Giants, coach Andy Reid said it is getting a little harder to scheme Jackson to daylight given all of the defensive attention he is receiving.
"A little bit,'' Reid said. "[Offensive coordinator] Marty [Mornhinweg] has done a great job with it first of all, of calling the plays at the right time and having a real feel for what the defense is doing. It is a challenge every week to find ways to do that because at times he is being doubled. They're trying different things on him so you have to pick your spots and know when to attack on it."
There was less picking of spots when it came to Quick and T.O. That is the big difference. If Jackson is more explosive, they were more persistent.
In 1983, on a 5-11 Eagles team under first-year coach Marion Campbell, Quick ended up leading the NFL with 1,409 yards on 69 catches. He had 13 touchdowns that year and averaged 20.4 yards per reception. His speed was deceptive and his smoothness in route-running was his trademark. He would run past defenders who sometimes didn't realize it until he was gone.
In 2004, the Super Bowl year, Owens had 77 catches, 1,200 yards and 14 touchdowns before breaking his leg. We all know what he brought, the memory still fresh: swagger more than anything. The Eagles took bigger gulps of yardage that season and Owens was the reason.
Jackson is not likely to match Quick and T.O. in those basic stats this season. (Right now, he has 50 catches for 947 yards and seven touchdowns.) As much as we all fixate on Jackson, and as much as we all recognize his outrageous gifts, a dose of historical perspective isn't all bad.
Put it this way: Think about how you feel about Jackson now and just recognize that if he ever does have the best season by an Eagles receiver in modern history, we might never be able to pick up our dropped jaws.
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