'We got some dope stuff' — Eagles finding new ways to use DeSean

Reuben Frank
NBC Sports Philadelphia

DeSean Jackson is one of the greatest deep threats in NFL history.

He's also much more.

Jackson has 97 career receptions of at least 30 yards, third-most in the NFL over the last 20 years (nine fewer than Randy Moss, one fewer than Steve Smith).

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He also has 491 OTHER catches, most of which never made anybody's highlight reel, and 303 of them went for first downs.

So more than 60 percent of Jackson's shorter catches have gone for first downs.

That's an incredibly revealing statistic about DeSean's short game.

We all know he can beat you catching bombs. But he can beat you in a lot of other ways as well.

I think that's what I've been most pleasantly surprised by since he's been here," Carson Wentz said. "His ability to do things with the ball after the catch, underneath routes, crossing routes. (He's) a lot better route runner than people give him credit for.

Jackson is back with the Eagles after five years in exile, and the Eagles have been working a ton during training camp on finding ways to get Jackson the ball in ways other than chucking it deep.

Shoot man, whatever they call on me to do, that's what I'm here for," Jackson said. "I don't like to say I can only be one-dimensional. Whatever the offense calls for me to do, that's what I'm here to do. I've always felt I've been good at it, but you can only be as good as your opportunities present.

Jackson has led the NFL in yards per catch four times, including three of the last five years.  His 17.4 career average is highest in the league over the last 35 years.

But put him with Doug Pederson, who has proven himself to be one of the NFL's most inventive and creative play callers and play designers, and Wentz, who has the fourth-highest passer rating in the NFL over the last two years, and it's scary to imagine what's possible here.

Even at 32 years old.

We got some dope stuff in this year," Jackson said. "It's going to be great. The kind of stuff (Pederson) has up his sleeve for this offense, man, it's unbelievable.

After three years with the Redskins and two with the Buccaneers, Jackson has been rejuvenated by his return to the Eagles, where he starred from 2008 through 2013. 

He's enjoying an incredible training camp, and his connection with Wentz seems to grow every day.

How will all this translate into numbers? It's tough to tell, since the Eagles have so many weapons in the passing game. He might only catch 40 passes. But he could make a huge impact on this team with just 40 catches.

DeSean is a complete player," offensive coordinator Mike Groh said. "He can do anything that he wants. As a coach, it's really exciting because you can just say, ‘Hey, can you run this route or can you do it like this,' and you can just tell him and he can do it. So from a coaching standpoint that makes it really easy, and we're just trying to move him around and have him do a bunch of different things because he is such a weapon.

One thing to keep an eye on is how Jackson is able to physically handle running the entire playbook.

Crosses, slants, quick outs and other shorter routes mean more defenders in the area, and that means more contact, and for a 32-year-old wide receiver that's something to keep an eye out.

But Jackson said he's good with whatever Pederson comes up with.

Honestly, I don't try to get too caught up in how I'm utilized or what I'm doing," Jackson said. "Whenever I'm out there on the field, whenever it's time for my number is called, that's how I look at it. Be a professional and you just got to do what your job asks you to do, be the best at that on that play.

Jackson's 29 career touchdown catches of 50 yards or more rank second in NFL history, seven fewer than Jerry Rice (and tied with Randy Moss).

That means he's caught a touchdown pass of 50 yards or more every 5.3 games over his 11-year career.

But as the Eagles are planning to emphasize, there's much more to his game.

Everyone just thinks he's a deep threat," Wentz said. "He creates separation on a lot of different routes, so he'll be a game changer and really dynamic playmaker for us.

And of course the shorter the pass, the higher-percentage play it is. 

If Wentz sees a defensive matchup that Jackson can exploit, the plan is to get the ball in his hands quickly and with a high-percentage throw and let Jackson do the rest with his world-class speed.

Let Jackson have the last word, in his inimitable way: 

"If that's what the analytics say, then, s--t, bro," he said. "I don't get caught up in that."

This is going to be really fun.

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'We got some dope stuff' Eagles finding new ways to use DeSean originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

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