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DeSean envisions bounce-back year under Chip

DeSean Jackson envisions a big role in Chip Kelly’s offense as he tries to produce like an elite player again.

DeSean Jackson caught only 45 passes for the Eagles in 2012. (Akira Suwa/Staff Photographer)
DeSean Jackson caught only 45 passes for the Eagles in 2012. (Akira Suwa/Staff Photographer)Read more

ONCE CONSIDERED one of the league's most dangerous offensive weapons, DeSean Jackson's productivity hasn't matched his special talent the last 2 1/2 years.

Maybe it was that vicious, concussion-causing collision with Dunta Robinson in 2010. Maybe it was the draining struggle to get a new contract. Maybe it was the offense that seemed to allow opponents to take Jackson out of the game plan too easily.

Whatever it was, Jackson hasn't been anywhere close to the prolific player lately that he was earlier in his career.

His yards-per-catch average has dropped from a career-high 22.5 in 2010 to 16.6 in '11 to 15.6 last season. His touchdown receptions have dropped from nine in 2009 to six to four to two.

In Jackson's last 33 starts, he has just seven TD receptions and five 100-yard receiving games.

Big plays have been few and far between. In 2009-10, he had 40 catches of 20 yards or more and 18 of 40-plus yards. The last 2 years, he's had 24 and seven. Hardly the numbers of an elite receiver, which Jackson considers himself.

Jackson clearly is hoping to see his pass-catching numbers soar again now that Chip Kelly has replaced Andy Reid as the Eagles' head coach.

He said Wednesday that Kelly intends to move him around the formation more than Reid did, which he thinks will make it more difficult for defenses to key on him.

"Really moving me around and keeping defenses off guard," Jackson said. "I think a lot of times in the past couple of years, teams were able to key in on me and things like that. Moving me around the offense and having the defense off guard is something we're going to try to do."

Jackson indicated last month that he expected Kelly to use him much the same way that he used De'Anthony Thomas at Oregon.

But Thomas, who is about the same size as Jackson but with a thicker body, is a running back who also can line up as a wide receiver. He had a team-high 45 receptions last year, but also had 92 rushing attempts. If Jackson - who is listed as 5-10, 175 - ever carried the ball that many times in a season, there would be nothing left of him.

The fact that he missed five games with two fractured ribs last season and only recently has started lifting weights again doesn't help.

"I feel the sky's the limit for myself," said Jackson, who had just 45 catches and two TDs last year. "Last year, getting hurt toward the end of the year was very disappointing. Regardless of the season we had last year, I felt I was still able to help this team do things. Spark the energy. Spark my teammates.

"With Chip coming in here with the style of play of his offense, I think it's really going to help me out a lot because I'm going to be able to get certain looks, get the ball in my hands, do different things that we weren't doing the past 5 years. It's going to be an exciting time for me."

This will be an important year for Jackson, 26. He signed a 5-year deal with the Eagles after the 2011 season. But it included just $15 million in guaranteed money.

His base salary is $6.75 million this season. It jumps to $10.25 million in 2014, of which only $250,000 is guaranteed. If he doesn't have a big year, or he gets hurt again, 2013 could be his swan song in Philly.

Jackson said he hopes Kelly will use him as a punt returner more than Reid did the last couple of years. Jackson returned just one punt last season, and only 17 in 2011. His first 2 years with the Eagles, Jackson had 79 returns. Led the league's punt returners in 2009 with an average of 15.2 yards per return and two TDs.

"Hopefully, it will be a little more than last year," he said. "Being able to get back there and make some big-time punt returns. But it's still early. This up-tempo offense, we need to get ourselves in shape so we can be firing every play."