Everything else you could see coming. Michael Vick hadn't had a great game since torching the Washington Redskins in that epic Monday night game last November. Chemistry problems on the defense were unavoidable after the team brought in two cornerbacks to play with Asante Samuel. Coordinating that defense would be a coach who spent the last two decades working with offensive linemen.
There was a chance none of that would slow the Philadelphia Eagles. Yet there was just as good a chance that the experiment would blow up in their face.
One thing nobody worried about was wide receiver DeSean Jackson. The temperamental wideout was in a contract year and though he entered 2011 underpaid and without a new deal, he figured to be on his best behavior and in peak physical form. This season was to be his audition for a massive contract in free agency. Problem children can keep it together during a contract year. Heck, even Albert Haynesworth won a defensive player of the year award in his.
But something funny happened on the way to the nine-figure contract. Jackson was benched for a crucial game in Arizona last month after missing a team meeting. In a loss to the New England Patriots, he was sat down in the fourth quarter for a lack of effort and later sniped with his coach. He jogs on routes and sometimes doesn't turn around to look for passes. He seems petrified of getting hit, often stopping short on routes over the middle or diving to the ground instead of fighting for extra yardage. His receiving numbers are down. His targets are down. He spent pregame warmups on Thursday night standing around with members of the defense and much of the game sulking on the sidelines. Then, when asked about the Eagles loss to the Seattle Seahawks, Jackson went into hyper-defensive mode.
Jackson wouldn't answer questions about whether he wasn't talking to his teammates on the sideline, saying they knew what the situation was.
Jeff McClane of the Philadelphia Inquirer confirmed that. He asked an unnamed Eagles player if Jackson was completely in the game. "No," the player said, "he's [messing] around."
For what it's worth, Andy Reid defended Jackson.
"Let me tell you, DeSean was all in in that game," Reid told reporters. "He had a great attitude during that game, and you can take a camera and you can make things look any way you want to make them look, but the kid was all in last night, and I was proud of him for that."
The Eagles coach criticized the NFL Network's telecast for showing Jackson looking unhappy on the bench and jogging. It bodes well for Jackson that his coach still defends him, but since Reid has never been the kind of guy to criticize his players in public, these quotes may not mean much.
Philadelphia will have to ask a big question this offseason. If this is the way DeSean Jackson acts when he's trying to get paid, how can the Eagles expect him to perform after he gets his millions? With the way things are going for Jackson this season, the Eagles may not take the opportunity to find out.
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