Friday, September 19, 2008
Jackson 'not even worried about' gaffe at the goal line
PHILADELPHIA -- Next time DeSean Jackson is racing toward the end zone, the rookie wide receiver should tuck the ball tightly under his arm, take it with him to the sideline and put it away for safekeeping.
Jackson's superb start with the Philadelphia Eagles -- he became the second player in NFL history to have 100 yards receiving in each of his first two games -- has been overshadowed by a colossal goof in a 41-37 loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Monday night.
Midway through a wild second quarter, Jackson sprinted past defenders, caught Donovan McNabb's long pass in stride and was on his way to a 61-yard touchdown reception. Eager to celebrate his first TD, Jackson casually flicked the ball backward before crossing the goal line. By the time he finished his dance, the Cowboys were calling for a review. The touchdown was overturned, but the Eagles got the ball at the 1.
Brian Westbrook made the mistake forgivable by scoring to give the Eagles a 27-21 lead. Still, Jackson took a lot of grief this week for the careless play. It didn't help that a record audience watched the game on television.
"I had a lot of people messing around with me about it, but I'm just going to move on with it," Jackson said. "I've got a lot more football to play. I'm just not even worried about it."
No doubt coaches and veteran players scolded Jackson, who should've known better because he made a similar gaffe in a 2005 high school all-star game. That time, the showboating Jackson spread his arms for a swan dive into the end zone, only to land at the 1.
"For your first touchdown, that's not how you want to be remembered," McNabb said. "It was a rookie mistake. I don't expect that to happen again, and I'm pretty sure it won't. It was a great play, overall, and we, hopefully, look for more plays like that to happen."
The speedy-but-diminutive Jackson -- he's generously listed at 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds -- was selected with the 49th overall pick in the second round of the draft. He was expected to make more of an immediate impact as a punt returner than receiver, but injuries to starters Kevin Curtis and Reggie Brown gave Jackson a chance.
So far, he's made the most of it. Jackson leads the team with 12 catches for 216 yards. He also has a 60-yard punt return. Don Looney is the only other player to open his career with consecutive 100-yard games, doing it for Philadelphia in 1940.
"I definitely look back at the people to come out of college that come to the NFL, like Adrian Peterson and Marshawn Lynch, their (transition) was good," Jackson said. "So, I feel confident about myself. I feel if they can do it, I can do it, too. I just prepare myself with the right mentality and came in and was willing to work."
For a little guy, Jackson has a lot of confidence. He walks around with a Terrell Owens-type swagger, minus T.O.'s bulging muscles and pedigree.
Coach Andy Reid talked about keeping Jackson humble more than once in training camp. He wouldn't say what he told Jackson after the silly fumble.
"I'm not going to get into all that," Reid said.
Jackson isn't worried about the perception he's become too cocky too soon.
"I've got a job to do -- that's to go play football," he said. "We've got games to win, the Super Bowl, it's all of that. All the other stuff, you just leave that alone and keep playing football."
Jackson had a standout career at California. He caught 162 passes for 2,423 yards and 22 TDs in 36 games, and returned six punts for scores.
Before the draft, Jackson worked out with Jerry Rice for two months. Rice tutored Jackson on running routes, advised him on the challenge of playing at the next level and stressed the importance of studying his playbook and keeping his body healthy.
But Jackson's size probably prevented him from being a first-round pick. That put a huge chip on his slight shoulders. Now he's making teams regret passing on him.
"He got his opportunity and has made the most of it up to this point," offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said. "He's a natural player. He's smart. He's got instincts. He normally does the right thing. He normally catches the ball pretty well. He'll get better at that. He's put all of that together here early. Now, the challenge is playing at a high level on a consistent basis every play, every game."
And keeping the ball snugly in his possession as he heads into the end zone.