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Enemy Lines: Jackson Credits Kelly

Posted Oct 10, 2013

Philly's DeSean Jackson once again looks like the big-play receiver who took the league by storm in 2009 and 2010, and he says that's the product of new Head Coach Chip Kelly and his diverse offense

  • Eagles WR DeSean Jackson, who led the NFL in big passing plays in 2009-10, is averaging 18.8 yards per catch this season
  • Chip Kelly's up-tempo offense has unlocked Jackson's big-play ability by lining him up in many different spots
  • CB Darrelle Revis is worried about his matchup with WR DeSean Jackson turning into a track meet
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson burst onto the NFL scene in 2009 with a marvelous sophomore season, making the Pro Bowl with a seemingly endless string of big plays. During the 2009 and 2010 campaigns, Jackson caught 29 passes that went for 25 or more yards, most in the NFL, and also led the league in average yards after the catch.  He made the Pro Bowl again in 2010 and, with 17 touchdowns and a ridiculous career average of 18.3 yards per catch after his first three NFL seasons, looked like he would be one of the league's superstar pass-catchers for years to come.

The next two seasons, however, brought diminishing returns.  Jackson still averaged 830.5 yards per season during the 2011-12 campaigns, with a healthy 16.1 yards per catch, but he scored just six more times, missed six games due to injury and joined the Eagles' offense in dropping from third to ninth to 29th in the league's scoring rankings.

Of course, Jackson hadn't suddenly lost his speed or explosiveness, nor had a Philly offense that also included such dynamic players as LeSean McCoy and Michael Vick lost its high-scoring potential.  All of that has returned with a vengeance in 2013 – Jackson is fourth in the NFL in receiving yards and the Eagles are averaging 27 points a game – and Jackson credits one man: Chip Kelly.

Kelly, the former Oregon head coach known for his incredibly up-tempo offensive approach, replaced the Eagles' long-time helmsman  Andy Reid, and brought his wide-open style to the NFL.  It has worked wonders for Jackson, largely because it has given opponents a lot more than Jackson to worry about.

"I think I’m just being put in different positions," he said, comparing the 2013 season to the last two.  "In the past, I think everybody was able to watch film and key in to what we were doing when we had Marty Mornhinweg here as the offensive coordinator and Coach Reid. I think I had a lot of success early in my career on big plays and explosive plays in the league. In the past couple of years, before Chip Kelly got here, I think everybody was kind of keying in and trying to basically take that away from us as an offense and me as a player."

Jackson's per-catch average is back up to 18.8 this year and he's already scored three times in five games, on pace to match his career-high of nine in 2009.  The big play is back in his game, precisely because the Eagles aren't trying to force the big play.

-- WR DeSean Jackson is fourth in the NFL with 525 receiving yards

"Now that Chip Kelly came in, he’s moving me around, putting me in different positions," said Jackson. "Every play is not a home run, deep threat; we have a balanced offensive running game as well, McCoy in the backfield and things like that. Whatever it is that I need to do to free myself up, so it’s not like we’re just always going deep, that’s what I love doing. I love being put in positions where I am able to go underneath and run underneath routes too and just keep the defense off-guard, just put them to sleep and then go over the top.”

Reid, now the head coach of the 5-0 Kansas City Chiefs, had an impressive 14-year run with the Eagles, helping them to five NFC Championship Games and one Super Bowl.  Jackson retains plenty of respect for Reid, but says the team was ready for a change and was willing to accept Kelly's radical offensive approach with open arms.

"Chip was like that missing piece…so having a guy that you believe in and trust in – not to say that wasn’t the same case with Andy Reid – but we all just felt it was good for us to get a new culture and somebody new to come in and just kind of have a new system and things like that. I think, since Day One, everybody admired what he’s done in his past in his career at Oregon and everybody just bought into what he was bringing to Philadelphia.”

In addition to Jackson's big numbers, McCoy is the NFL's leading rusher and Vick has a passer rating over 90 and 307 additional yards on the ground.  (A hamstring injury could keep Vick out of Sunday's game in Tampa.)  The Eagles are second in the NFL in yards and eighth in points and they're doing it at breakneck speed.  Philadelphia's average time of possession of 26:24 per game is the second lowest in the league.  The point of that rapid-fire approach is to put the defense in an a stressful situation.

“Basically, I would describe it as a high-tempo offense where we’re able to keep defenses off guard," said Jackson.  "At any given time, he’s able to signal plays in from the sidelines and guys are all on the same page to know what we need to do to execute the play. [It’s] just very high-tempo, up-tempo and [we’re] just really trying to keep defenses off-guard and not let them substitute and not let them understand what’s coming until the next play.”