Philadelphia Eagles: Why Jeremy Maclin Is More Important Than DeSean Jackson

WesAnalyst IAugust 22, 2011

Turns defenders into ankle biters
Turns defenders into ankle biters

We like highlights.

They allow us to digest a game without having to watch commercials or listen to fools like Joe Buck ramble on about nothingness.

Before the marquee moments unfold, we mute the TV in an attempt to prevent the likes of Chris Berman and Stuart Scott from ruining the experience. As the three-hour game plays out in less than two minutes, we see players like DeSean Jackson all over the screen as the Eagles win.

Jeremy Maclin might make it into the clip, but even when we see his No. 18 jersey, we subconsciously think it's Jackson's No. 10.

At season's end, Jackson gets to wear one of those ugly Pro Bowl jerseys while Maclin sits at home because he wasn't popular enough. Despite not getting the love on SportsCenter or figuring out a way to market himself, Maclin will clearly become the most important piece to the Eagles' puzzle.

I say "clearly become" because, at the moment, these two players accumulated similar stats their first two years as pros.

Maclin and Jackson each had 125 catches and played in 31 games during their their rookie and sophomore campaigns. Maclin found the end zone 14 times, which was one more than Jackson's 13. Jackson was able to gain more yards though, as he piled up 2,079 against Maclin's 1,726.

But with the way Jackson plays, his production will plateau, and he will lose value.

Before we go any further, I need to point out I am only talking about Jackson as a receiver. I will touch on his punt returning skills later.

Maclin will run routes anywhere on the field and open up things for the rest of the team. Jackson can make things easier for others as well, but he does it by hugging the sidelines and searching for a way to come up with big plays. Jackson lines up wide and stays there as often as possible because everyone knows he isn't going to survive going across the middle.

That shouldn't be taken as a knock on Jackson; the guy has an incredible talent to burn defenses with big plays. The only problem is, it allows defenses a better opportunity to stop a receiver who does not have a diverse game.

We're beginning to see how well teams are defending Jackson in the playoffs too, as he only has 16 receptions for 268 yards and two touchdowns in five games.

I did mention how Maclin and Jackson have similar stats, but look at Maclin's growth compared to Jackson's regression (or, leveling-off):

Maclin increased his receptions by 15, touchdowns by six and receiving yards by 202. Last year Jackson caught 16 fewer passes, decreased his touchdown total by three and his yardage dropped by 111 yards while only missing one more game than the previous season.

I know Jackson has a perceived value as a punt returner, but his numbers are slowly declining there as well. In three years, his return attempts have dropped from 50 to 29 to 20, and his yards per return have fluctuated from 8.8. to 15.2 and down to 11.6. Jackson has returned at least one punt for a touchdown in each season, but his overall production and contributions have declined and limited his importance.

Maclin isn't going to have his face all over the TV, and few fans will wear his jersey in the stands. But don't let the perception fool you, because as Maclin gets better, he will approach 80 receptions and double-digit touchdowns on a yearly basis and prove why he is cornerstone for the receiving corps.