DeSean Jackson started the 2011 season by holding out for a new contract. But the way he has played so far this season, you wouldn't know he has stopped holding out.
In the final year of his rookie contract, Jackson has been looking for a deal that pays him like one of the best receivers in the league. However, given his limited skill set, that wouldn't be a wise move right now.
His calling card in his breakout 2009 season and through most of the ’10 season was using his explosive speed to catch deep bombs down the field. Unfortunately for Philadelphia, that was the only thing listed on the card.
Lost in the narrative of the past two seasons is how wildly inconsistent he has been and how misleading his production actually is. Since 2009, Jackson has had 11 100-yard receiving games, none of which came against defenses who finished the season ranked in the top 10 against the pass. The best pass defense he gained 100-plus yards against was the lowly Rams (ranked 12th through nine weeks) in the first game this season. More than half of his 100-yard receiving games have come against defenses ranked 16th or lower against the pass.
He often is neutralized or taken out of games. As a rookie, he had five games with two or less catches. He had six such games in his breakout ’09 season, five games with two or less receptions in ’10 and he has had three games like that already this season.
According to the Football Outsiders metric catch rate, which measures how often a receiver catches a pass targeted to him, Jackson has never been above 53 percent, including 50 percent this season. For comparisons sake, Mike Wallace, another blazing-fast deep threat, has a catch rate of 72 percent this season and 61 percent last season.
When a good defense decides it wants to take away the deep ball by playing tight man coverage at the line and a safety deep, Jackson becomes very stoppable. There is no variety in his game other than the go route.
Jackson's problems were on full display in Monday night's loss against the Bears. Too often, he was unable to beat the tight man coverage Chicago employed and when he did get open, he had costly drops (he has six of those already this season).
That doesn't warrant being paid like a go-to No. 1 guy. If defenses manage to take away what you do well, you have to have second and third options, which he doesn't have. He can't go over the middle because he gets alligator arms, like he did on a deep-in route with Bears safety Chris Conte looming. Because of Jackson's lack of size (5-10, 175 pounds), he almost becomes a nonfactor in the red zone. He's also not very effective on sideline routes like deep comebacks, which is surprising because of his outstanding speed.
Jackson is best suited to be a No. 2, complementary receiver, where his limited skills are maximized because there is a top-guy alongside him making the types of plays he cannot make. Then, it will be harder for teams to make him the focus of the defense, something which he has struggled with this season.
He definitely can make plays that others can't with his explosive speed and open-field ability. But, he doesn't make a lot of plays that true No. 1 receivers do. And if it takes a big contract to sign him, the Eagles and the rest of the league should pass.