All Eagle highlight reels, or NFL highlight reels for that matter, are teeming with the breathtaking speed and ankle-breaking agility of DeSean Jackson. He leads the Eagles in receiving yardage, and is one of the most dangerous players in the league. However, he does not even belong as the top target for Michael Vick, Kevin Kolb, or whoever the quarterback may be. Jeremy Maclin does.
On a team that features Michael Vick, Jackson, and LeSean McCoy, few have noticed Maclin’s 64 catches or 10 receiving touchdowns. He is two inches taller and around twenty-five pounds heavier than Jackson and physically is much closer to the mold of a traditional #1 receiver. His size allows him to be a much more reliable target when he cannot get separation from a defender and suits him to run short and intermediate routes much better than his smaller teammate. Maclin has the complete package. That’s why he was selected in the first round of the NFL draft and not Jackson. He has great speed and acceleration, but he is also strong, tough, and able to make contested catches. Not taking anything away from Jackson, but his skillset is less complete than Maclin’s. Jackson is a showstopper. He can run by or around anybody in the league and is the ultimate weapon. So, weapon should be his position, not his role. Let him return punts, take end arounds, run the wildcat, and run deep crossing routes. To truly maximize the skills of these unique athletes, do not force Jackson into a #1 receiver role in an Andy Reid offense. He will be running a lot of digs, hitches, and slants that will result in him taking more big hits that Maclin is more adept at absorbing.
DeSean Jackson has 23 plays of over 40 yards in his last 30 games. He is best suited as an x-factor that defenses will have no idea how to account for. He should be a permanent punt returner, because even if he doesn’t touch the ball, he will affect field position should opposing teams choose to kick the ball out of bounds. Even if they don’t, Jackson brings almost 1 in 7 punts back for over a 20 yard return. On offense, Reid and Morninwheg should pinpoint cracks in the defense and allow Jackson to align to succeed. Don’t split him out wide on every play. If he will be more effective in the slot, put him there. Send him in motion or run a jet sweep. Put him in the backfield on a couple of occasions. The Eagles need to be creative with their weapons to make sure that defenses account for each ability of each player. I would throw a new formation out there every week for a play or two that just keeps defenses thinking. If you like how they adjust or fail to adjust to it, stay with it. Line Jackson up at tight end on Maclin’s side and see if you can’t get him matched up on a strong safety or linebacker once in a while. My point is if you throw enough at a defense, there will be something that will give them pause. When they hesitate, we can run right by them. All this will be made easier if we afford ourselves the flexibility to move our most dynamic and fearsome playmaker anywhere on the field to create mismatches.