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What to expect: DeSean Jackson, Part 1

7/22/2014

Things I noticed while watching just about every pass attempt thrown to DeSean Jackson last season (and a few from 2012), not to mention a number of other plays in which he was on the field just to get a better sense of what the Redskins have. Part 2 will run Wednesday morning:

  1. More often than not, Jackson worked himself open and therefore most incompletions were the result of a missed throw. That obviously wasn’t always the case, but it happened a lot. Jackson creates separation in part because corners must honor his deep speed so the comebacks and hitches work well. Saw him get wide open on throws in which he drives to the outside only to cut back in. Again, if a defender does not honor his routes he’ll break free.

  2. Defensive backs, in general, played a yard or two deeper against him. Not every corner did that of course, but it happened more than against other wideouts. That’s one reason Jackson caught a lot of hitches and comebacks.

  3. He’s tough to jam if you don’t have safety help. If you miss him without safety help, there’s a good chance a huge play will follow as the quarterback will automatically go his way – or at least should. Denver played him physical last year; the Broncos limited him to two catches for 34 yards. The Giants played him physical with safety help in the first game; he still had three catches for 20 yards or more including an underthrown 58-yard catch en route to seven catches for 132 yards. But that 58-yarder included no jam leading to an easy release and two-step advantage. Of the other two 20-plus catches, one included a jam and the other came against off-man coverage. He beat both to the inside. Two of the big plays occurred when Jackson was aligned outside the numbers; the third came from when he was inside in a bunch setting then ran a deep out. For what it’s worth, the Giants used more zone against the Eagles in the second meeting; Jackson’s longest catch out of eight receptions in that game was 13 yards.

  4. Dallas also was physical with Jackson. In two games against the Cowboys last season Jackson caught a combined six passes for 49 yards. In the first game, though, had quarterback Nick Foles done a better job of leading him to an area two big plays, including a touchdown, could have resulted. But overall Brandon Carr did a solid job against him when in man, showing the ability to be patient at the line and get his hands on him. Makes a difference.

  5. He ran bubbles, hitches, comebacks, screens, go routes and crosses. He ran routes from outside the numbers, the backfield and from the slot. He also went in motion. It made him tougher to re-route or jam all the time. And the Eagles did a good job with screens or picks. Did not see him run any slants last season, which perhaps is why the Saints didn’t fall for a slant-and-go in the playoffs. But they would line him up at times off the ball and let his quick feet go to work. He does a good job at the top of routes creating extra separation. Saw this a few times in 2012 when a corner (Cleveland’s Joe Haden) would have to honor a certain route only to have Jackson cut another way and get open by several yards.

  6. He gets open a lot. The system helped with how they used Jackson, but he also created separation on his own. And Jackson seemed to like getting inside releases against man coverage -- and could do so at times even when the corner had inside leverage (though not if they're patient). He was highly effective on crossing routes (as is Pierre Garcon, so take note). Jackson can run from guys, obviously, but Garcon is better at breaking tackles. And everyone talks about Jackson's acceleration: Saw it on one play vs. Kansas City when he was even with a defensive back after 9 yards, a half step ahead after 15 and three steps ahead by the time he caught a 40-yarder.

  7. He is not a good blocker. He would sometimes drift or not go as hard on routes in which he was not the primary target. The Eagles still ran the ball well with him, but that’s partly because of LeSean McCoy skills. Jackson will need to block better.