For the first time since September, there is real hope that DeSean Jackson will be able to play meaningful snaps this next game against Chicago.
Ever since DeSean Jackson went down with a mysterious groin/abdomen injury in week 2 he has been absent from the practice field. That finally changed this week when DeSean Jackson was listed with limited participation in practice on Wednesday and will continue to do more and more work over the course of the week.
Even if he comes back in a limited fashion, just getting him back on the field is a big deal for this Eagles offense and Carson Wentz specifically.
Week 1 against Washington showed how valuable DeSean Jackson can be to a football team. The Eagles were down 17-0 in the first half, but after multiple deep touchdowns to D-Jax, the Eagles came away with the comeback win. This left the Eagles faithful excited about the state of their offense and the season ahead. Then….disaster struck, in the form of injury. DeSean Jackson hasn’t seen the field since, and the Eagles offense has been a slog.
As good of a receiver as Alshon Jeffery is, his game is not beating defenses over the top. Instead, in DeSean Jackson’s absence, the Eagles have tried to use Nelson Agholor as their deep threat. This experiment has not gone well. According to Sharp Football, Wentz has attempted 12 deep passes to Agholor and 9 have resulted in incompletions. Not only is throwing deep to Agholor not working, but some of these targets are ugly too. Mixed in with a horrific drop against Atlanta, Agholor shows no ability to track the ball in the air. This is subjective, but the guess here is that all 4 of the targets below would have resulted in touchdowns if thrown to DeSean Jackson.
With Agholor struggling, the Eagles hoped they could get something from their rookie JJ Arcega-Whiteside, who was just drafted in the 2nd round. This did not come to fruition as JJAW hasn’t even been targeted since week 3, let alone caught something deep. In his only deep target, he had a game-losing drop against the Lions in week 3.
The only receiver left on the roster is Mack Hollins. Similar to JJAW, Hollins has been a ghost recently. He went the entire October without a single catch and only received 3 targets total. The nicest thing that can be said about Hollins is that, of this trio of receivers, he is the only one that does not have an egregious drop on a deep target specifically. He does have a terrible drop that in the last drive against the Lions that would have put them in field goal range (in a game they lost by 3) but at least it wasn’t on a deep target.
While the Eagles front office deserves criticism for having no backup plan if DeSean Jackson went down, it is clear that they were relying on him to open the offense up.
According to Sharp Football, the Eagles generate an explosive play on 8% of their passes thrown to wide receivers, which ranks 26th in the league. Every team ranked below them has a losing record except 1 (Carolina, who has had Cam Newton out since week 2 with an injury). It is telling that the Eagles most explosive receiver this season has been rookie running back Miles Sanders. He leads the team in 20+ yard pass plays.
Even with all of these issues, Wentz is still the 18th ranked QB throwing deep. This obviously is not an ideal number, but considering the lack of any help at the receiver position and the low passer rating according to NextGenStats, 18th is not terrible.
His overall statistics going deep are 18 for 47 with 4 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. Of course, 2 of the 4 TDs were to DeSean Jackson in the only game he played. With the highlights shown above in mind, look at how much easier it seems when these targets go to Djax.
Overall, getting DeSean Jackson back in the lineup will have a butterfly effect on the offense. Jeffery will now see opposing defenses 2nd corner as opposed to their top one, and Agholor can be moved back into the slot full-time. The middle of the field should also open up for tight ends Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert since the secondary now has to be worried about being beat over the top. His return should even help the run game as teams can no longer crowd the box with a speed threat on the outside.
It is hard to quantify the impact he will have, but look for the Eagles offense to take off once DeSean Jackson returns to the lineup.
Featured Photo: Matt Slocum/Associated Press