WR Jackson missing in action as Eagles struggle

DeSean Jackson went from unstoppable to invisible in two
weeks.

The two-time Pro Bowl wide receiver was off to a remarkable
start for the Philadelphia Eagles before defenses suddenly found a
way to shut him down. Jackson had 16 catches for 297 yards and two
touchdowns in the first two games. Then he followed that up with
only five catches for 96 yards and no scores in the next two.

”We’re doing things similar to what we did early in the
season,” Jackson said. ”First two games, we had success, but
teams study, teams make adjustments and that’s where we’re at right
now. Teams saw what we did, adjusted and did a great job.”

The cornerbacks on the Redskins and Chargers played off Jackson,
giving him about an 8-yard cushion at the line of scrimmage. He
exploited that coverage, turning short passes into long gains and
blowing past defenders for deep receptions.

But the Chiefs and Broncos used press coverage against Jackson,
jamming him at the line and disrupting his route. The diminutive
Jackson – generously listed at 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds – isn’t the
type of wideout who can break away from guys by outmuscling
them.

”I don’t feel teams are taking me out,” Jackson said. ”I
don’t feel I’m being shut down, but the numbers aren’t the same. At
times it gets frustrating not having the production.”

Jackson faced two top cornerbacks the past two weeks in Kansas
City’s Brandon Flowers and Denver’s Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
While some teams double-cover Jackson by rolling a safety over to
help the cornerback, pressing him – the way Flowers and
Rodgers-Cromartie did – seems more effective.

”I honestly don’t feel there’s one man that can stop me in this
league,” Jackson said.

The numbers say otherwise.

Getting Jackson back on track will be important for the Eagles
(1-3) when they try to snap their three-game losing streak at the
New York Giants (0-4) on Sunday. Quarterback Michael Vick spent a
big part of the practice week working on ways to get Jackson more
involved.

”We just have to find ways to move him around,” Vick said.
”DeSean is a professional; he understands what it takes to get
open and what he needs to do. We all are a work in progress and
have to figure out ways to up our game and improve our game.
Obviously, it’s up to me to get the ball to him and find him in
moments where I need him the most. We’ll figure that out.

”But the one thing we don’t want to do, we don’t want to try to
force it, we want to let it happen naturally, and it’ll
happen.”

The Eagles clearly miss Jeremy Maclin, who tore a knee ligament
in training camp. Maclin was an excellent route-runner and
sure-handed receiver who averaged 65 catches over his first four
seasons.

Riley Cooper replaced Maclin in the starting lineup and has just
eight receptions for 93 yards. Slot receiver Jason Avant has 12
catches for 146 yards. The trio of tight ends – Brent Celek, Zach
Ertz and James Casey – were expected to play a major role in coach
Chip Kelly’s offense, but have combined for 13 receptions.

”Guys have to take pressure off DeSean,” Vick said. ”We can’t
rely on DeSean to make every play. We can’t rely on DeSean every
game to catch a deep ball. This league is tough and you have smart
defensive coordinators who gameplan for him. Other guys have to
step up and do their jobs and get open, and they will. I’m not
worried about the man coverage. I’m not worried about the aspect of
us not being able to be effective throughout the game versus man
coverage.

”That’s going to happen, and we have ways to beat that.”

While Jackson said the Eagles are doing the same things
offensively they did earlier in the year, Vick suggested that’s not
the case.

”The big plays that DeSean made earlier in the season were on
different route concepts,” Vick said. ”We just have to get to
doing the things we do naturally, getting the ball out quick and
that’s all in the game plan and scheme.”

Despite Jackson’s declining production, the Eagles are still
moving the ball well. They’re ranked second in the NFL in total
yards (458.8). But they’re having a tough time in the red zone and
are 12th in points (24.8).

”I still think we’re stopping ourselves,” Kelly said,
referring to penalties and turnovers. ”We are not getting stopped
by a scheme and we are not getting stopped by a look.”

Online: AP NFL site: http://pro32.ap.org/

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