Statistically, some would argue that DeSean Jackson had one of his best days as an NFL wide receiver on Sunday. However, a senseless penalty committed by Jackson contributed in large part to the Philadelphia Eagles heart-breaking loss.
Playing in his sixth NFL season, the former second-round draft pick will turn 27 years old on Dec. 1. Surely, he is old enough and has been in the league long enough to be expected to have learned how to be a professional. Unfortunately for Chip Kelly and the Eagles, Jackson continues to be his own worst enemy.
At 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds, the diminutive wideout is physically challenged to compete in a league of giants. Many explain Jackson’s questionable behavior at times to be a necessary part of his game: continuously having to prove that he is tough enough at his size to battle in a game with much larger men. Others simply categorize him as a spoiled, selfish punk.
It’s difficult to argue with the latter argument based on his tumultuous history both in college and since arriving in Philly. At the University of California, Jackson was a two-time first-team All-American as a wide receiver and kick returner. However, he was punished in 2007 for violating team rules, and his reputation along with his size negatively affected his draft status upon declaring himself eligible after his junior year.
Since being selected by the Eagles as the seventh wideout in the 2008 draft, his moments of brilliance have been mixed with acts of foolishness. As electrifying as he can be with the ball in his hands, his mouth and his behavior have often gotten him in trouble.
His arrogance first reared its ugly head in Jackson’s second game as a pro against the Dallas Cowboys on Monday Night Football. On what would have been his first NFL touchdown, the rookie celebrated prematurely by flipping the ball behind him at the one-yard-line. Although untouched, and with no defenders in close proximity, Jackson’s showboating led to the play being challenged and overturned, placing the ball at the one.
Since that infamous play, Jackson has continued to break Eagle franchise records, and is clearly the Eagles most dangerous receiver and returner. He has, however, continued to have his share of problems including contract disputes, a missed team meeting leading to a benching, on-field altercations resulting in fines and a 2011 season that will go down as one of the most selfish in the history of Philadelphia sports.
Holding out of camp until the last possible day he could without losing a year towards free agency, a petulant Jackson tip-toed through 2011. After a half-hearted effort, Andy Reid benched Jackson against the New England Patriots for dropping two potential touchdown passes.
In an interview with ESPN’s Lisa Salters in 2012, Jackson admitted that he didn’t give his all in 2011 for fear of injury before signing a new contract.
“I let it get to me, even though I tried not to let it. I was trying to protect myself from getting hurt — now I’m just giving it all”, Jackson said.
Not the type of quote that inspires love amongst the hard-nosed Eagles’ fan base.
In Sunday’s game where Jackson saw uncustomary single coverage most of the day, the Eagles’ No. 1 receiver caught a career-high nine passes for 193 yards and two touchdowns. He also had a 37-yard touchdown pass called back because of a penalty, dropped a potential 79-yard TD and caught another potential 69-yard touchdown out of bounds.
In what could have very easily been a 300-yard, four-touchdown game with a couple breaks, it’s his senseless penalty that will be what is remembered. Jackson, being pushed by a San Diego Chargers’ defender on Michael Vick’s late-game TD run, retaliated after the score that resulted in a dead ball, unsportsmanlike 15-yard penalty. It gave San Diego great field position following the ensuing kickoff which led to a Charger touchdown.
“We all have to learn to be professionals at all time and keep our cool,” Vick said after the game. “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…”
As so much talent and skill continues to be obstructed by immaturity and unprofessionalism, Eagles fans can only hope that Vick is correct. Ultimately, the only thing keeping DeSean Jackson from greatness is DeSean Jackson.