Wide receiver DeSean Jackson says he’s “excited to be out there practicing and going at it with the guys” in his return to the Eagles.
Any choreographed celebration worth its salt takes practice, so he spent some time on the sidelines at organized team activities Tuesday rehearsing with his new battery mate DeSean Jackson. Not to spoil the surprise, but the current version involves a couple of forward slaps, a backhand slap and a simulated roll of the dice. Their timing and execution was pretty solid considering the short time they have been together.
The same can be said for on the field. Wentz and Jackson were in a nice groove during Tuesday’s session — a noticeable improvement from one week prior. Wentz found Jackson in rhythm on a long out, then connected with him on a post route between a couple of defenders for the “touchdown.” Later, he located the 5-foot-10 Jackson behind traffic in the back corner of the end zone for another score. It all seemed pretty effortless.
Carson Wentz to DeSean to start drills. pic.twitter.com/4NnAJOsqdS
— Tim McManus (@Tim_McManus) May 28, 2019
Yes, it’s early, but the early returns have been positive.
“He’s awesome,” Wentz said of Jackson. “He’s so far been a great teammate. Comes in, works hard. Obviously I’ve learned he’s pretty fast. He’s a pretty smooth runner. People might say he’s getting up there in age, but he can still go. So I’m excited to just keep building that chemistry with him both on the field and off the field. He’s a great teammate, and I think we’re going to do something special with him.”
Wentz will have a number of weapons at his disposal this season. He’s got a dynamic tight end duo in Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert, quality receiver options in Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor and rookie JJ Arcega-Whiteside, and an improved backfield with the additions of Jordan Howard and Miles Sanders. Then there’s Jackson, who at 32 years old is still flashing that lightning speed that can zap the top right off a defense. Asked if he’s still the fastest in the league, Jackson responded by saying he would bet on himself against anybody.
His deep-threat prowess should provide a significant boost to Wentz’s stats on downfield throws. On average, quarterbacks who have played with Jackson have experienced a completion rate increase of 7 percent, an additional 3 yards per attempt and an improvement of .65 to their touchdown-to-interception ratios when he is on the field. That’s good news for Wentz, who ranks 23rd in completion percentage (34 percent) and is tied for 26th in touchdown-to-interception ratio (1.0) on passes of 20-plus yards since coming into the league, according to ESPN Stats & Information, despite being seventh in deep accuracy percentage (45 percent) over the past two seasons.
Couple Wentz’s big arm with Jackson’s superior ball-tracking ability, and the potential for fireworks is there. But they have to get on the same page first.
“It’s great, man,” Jackson said of working with Wentz. “He’s a good quarterback. A good young kid, man. He’s very smart, intelligent. At first, he wasn’t back to full speed, but now he’s at full speed, out there throwing. I’m guessing his injury is back to where it needs to be, so just excited to be out there practicing and going at it with the guys.”
Besides working on their handshake, Wentz and Jackson spent their time on the sideline talking over plays and situations — part of a foundation building that the QB couldn’t fully dive into last offseason as he recovered from a torn ACL and LCL in his left knee. Wentz now has the benefit of a full offseason with his team, which is key, especially given the importance of syncing up with his new deep threat.
“I think it’s just about being able to get those reps in, being able to see it right on the field,” Jackson said. “A lot of times you can watch film, how he plays or how I play, but if you’re not out there getting them reps, in and out of your breaks, and just the timing aspect of it, that’s the biggest thing to me.
“I’m not out there every rep, so the reps that we are getting together just have to be right on point and right on time. We’ve been able to get some good reps in, and everything is going good so far.”