Maybe this sounds harsh, but it is entirely possible that no matter how fast, elusive and gifted he may be, DeSean Jackson is too small to play in the National Football League.
Listed at 5'10" and 175 pounds, Jackson frankly looks even smaller than that surrounded by the huge men he shares the field with on many Sundays.
Jackson was placed on the injured reserve list by the Philadelphia Eagles following their 30-22 loss to the Carolina Panthers on Monday Night Football. The injury was described by probable lame-duck head coach Andy Reid as having "multiple fractures...up high in his chest," according to USA Today.
This diagnosis was certainly consistent with the real-time reporting by Zach Berman of the Philadelphia Inquirer, who posted the following within 90 minutes of the game's end:
"DeSean Jackson exited Monday night's game in the first quarter with a rib cartilage injury, but X-rays in the locker room were negative. The team said an MRI and CT scans were set for Tuesday."
Presumably, the secondary objective testing revealed more than the preliminary X-rays did.
For the Eagles, the real concern must be that this latest injury establishes Jackson as too small, too slight and too brittle to continue to play at a high level in the NFL.
Jackson has actually been pretty durable through the first four-plus seasons of his career, missing only four games in his first four seasons and none so far this year. Given that one of those missed games came due to suspension, injury would seem to have even less to do with it.
But the statistics are somewhat misleading:
January 2011: Jackson sustains a left knee injury that sidelines him for some of the game (and later keeps him out of the Pro Bowl) during the Eagles' 21-16 home loss to the Green Bay Packers in the opening round of the playoffs.
October 2012: Jackson leaves the Eagles' 30-17 loss to the Atlanta Falcons in the third quarter with a leg injury; he returned to the game but finished it with a pedestrian five catches for 59 yards and no scores.
It is noticeable that Jackson played in every game save for the one Reid suspended him from in 2011.
But it is also true that Jackson a) took out an insurance policy against injury before the 2011 season and b) admitted that his unsettled contract status in 2011 caused him to play with an emphasis on avoiding injury. So maybe the 2011 season was not a true test of his durability.
And now this, a truly disabling injury that has ended his season.
No one doubts Jackson's incendiary speed and game-breaking ability. But none of that matters if he cannot stay on the field without hiding from contact.
Which makes the decision the Eagles will eventually have to make as to Jackson quite compelling. Per Dan Graziano of ESPN, Jackson's contract will pay him "$6.75 million base salary in 2013, and $4 million of that is fully guaranteed while the rest is guaranteed only against injury."
Graziano goes on to note that "(o)f his $10.25 million 2014 salary, only $250,000 is fully guaranteed and $250,000 is guaranteed against injury." Therefore, Graziano concluded, "this is a deal the Eagles can easily escape after the 2013 season if they want to."
If Jackson cannot stay on the field in 2013—and produce like a No. 1 wideout while he is there—expect the traditionally ruthless Eagles to do just that.