Earlier today, Jackson admitted that he didn’t try as hard as he could have in 2011 because he didn’t want to get hurt and jeopardize his upcoming contract situation. Jackson finished with just 58 receptions for 961 yards and four touchdowns, his worst numbers since his rookie campaign.
After the year, the Eagles rewarded Jackson with a five-year, $51 million contract extension (including $15 million guaranteed) that makes him one of the game’s highest-paid receivers. Jackson is essentially a one-trick pony who can’t go across the middle effectively and doesn’t block well. But his deep route is what makes him one of the game’s elite receivers, and it’s helped the Eagles to the playoffs in three of his four seasons since being drafted.
It must be really reassuring to his teammates to know that Jackson says he’ll try in ’12—now that he’s gotten his money, you know? I’ve written many times through about the impact Jackson has on the opposing defenses and I don’t think any game epitomizes that more over the course of Jackson’s four-year career than the 21-17 loss to the Arizona Cardinals last year.
In that contest, Jackson didn’t suit up and the Eagles offense was nearly a no-show, scoring just 10 points (Asante Samuel had seven on an interception return). Michael Vick passed for just 128 yards on 47 percent completions, and he tossed two interceptions. The leading receiver was former New York Giants star Steve Smith, who totaled just 47 yards. Jeremy Maclin and Jason Avant combined for just two catches and eight yards, a frighteningly awful performance that really showed Jackson’s true value to the Eagles.
While that’s just a small sample size, the fact is, having Jackson on the field forces the opposing safeties to play deeper than ever, which opens up underneath routes for players like Maclin, Avant, LeSean McCoy and Brent Celek.
Vick has more to prove in 2012 than any other Eagle, but Jackson may be second. Jackson has the ability to catch 1300 to 1500 yards in the Eagles passing offense, and he could bring in anywhere from 10 to 15 touchdowns. Other than Vick, no player will make or break the Eagles’ season more than Jackson, and that’s why he better come out ready to play every single game in 2012.