The Eagles cannot afford to lose DeSean Jackson for any significant length of time this year.
When we look back on the 2018 Philadelphia Eagles offense, we remember a group that really wasn’t a whole lot of fun. We remember an offense that slowly, methodically, and uninspiringly moved the ball down the field one small chunk at a time until they got to the red zone, where they then had a difficult time punching it into the end zone (17th in conversion rate).
The Eagles went out and seemingly solved their red zone issues by adding JJ Arcega-Whiteside in the draft this off-season, and have said they plan to continue using “12” personnel the way they did at the end of last year, with Dallas Goedert and Zach Ertz providing two additional mismatches from inside the 20. Alshon Jeffrey is also a huge target that should see a lot of red zone action, and Jordan Howard should provide the Birds with a better option running the ball from inside the three yard line.
Hopefully, that issue will be better in 2019. But the part of the Eagles offense that was most glaringly absent last season was their ability to stretch the field for 25+ yard plays.
The Eagles hope they solved that problem, too, with the addition of DeSean Jackson. And it is for that reason why DeSean is the most important Philadelphia Eagle in 2019 who is not named Carson Wentz.
There were times last year when the Eagles offense was so methodical and boring that it could have rocked a small child to sleep. In terms of explosive pass plays, the Eagles ranked 20th in the NFL in explosive pass rate at just 8% (according to Football Outsiders).
For the 3rd time in 5 years, Jackson led the league in yards per reception at 18.9. Meanwhile, Jordan Matthews led the Eagles in yards per reception last year at 15.0. Alshon Jeffrey averaged 13 yards per reception and Nelson Agholor was at 11.5.
Jackson gives the Eagles an aspect to their game that no one else on the roster can match. Mack Hollins is a speedy receiver, but he hasn’t been able to stay healthy. Shelton Gibson is no longer around and if any other training camp star (Marken Michel?) happens to leap to the forefront, it’s hard to imagine it’ll actually matter.
Jackson’s downfield speech can also help open up the slot and the middle of the field as well. Jeffrey, Agholor and JJ haven’t shown the ability to consistently stretch the field and, if DeSean were to miss significant time with an injury this season, the Philly offense would lose their lone downfield playmaker.
That’s not to say the offense would be lousy without him. The running game, with Jordan Howard, Miles Sanders and a healthy Darren Sproles, gives Carson some weapons out of the backfield. As mentioned earlier, the red zone and 3rd-down conversion rates should improve. But if Jeffrey goes down, Agholor, Jackson and JJ can step in, with Goedert or Ertz seeing increased reps in the slot. If one of the running backs goes down, the other two should be able to pick up the slack. If one of the offensive linemen goes down, there are solid and capable back-ups in place.
If DeSean goes down, the Birds will once again be devoid of a big play weapon and become the plodding, move-the-sticks operation they were last season. His skillset is unique. He is the only one who can do what he does.
The Eagles can win without Jackson, but they are far more dynamic with him, and no one else can do what he does.
That’s why he is the most important Eagle, non-Wentz division.