One of the more puzzling parts of the Eagles’ loss to Washington on Sunday was receiver DeSean Jackson playing in only 54% of the offensive snaps.
Speaking Monday, head coach Doug Pederson explained Jackson spending almost half of the game on the bench.
“Obviously he is a big part of the offense, but at the same time we want to make sure that he is a guy that healthy and fresh for us down the long haul,” Pederson said. “I think each week I would anticipate his rep count to increase as we go. We are going to be smart with him, but we also know that he is an explosive receiver for us and we want to get him on the field as much as possible moving forward.”
Jackson was in with the offense for the first series of the game, but by the time the offense took the field for the third series, he was on the sideline without a helmet. Jackson didn’t appear to be getting worked on by a trainer, and tweeted after the game that he was not injured.
Jackson ended the game with just two catches on seven targets with 46 yards. He did get behind the defense once, but quarterback Carson Wentz missed him down the field.
Yes, Jackson playing fewer snaps will decrease his chances of suffering an injury, and increase his chances of being available throughout the season.
The question is whether playing Jackson only half the snaps each week is in the best interest of this offense.
There is no denying that Jackson still strikes fear into opposing defenses due to his elite-level speed down the field. There is also the reality that outside of Jalen Reagor the other young receivers — J.J. Arcega-Whiteside and John Hightower — didn’t show much against Washington. Holding onto to Jackson for later in the season will work if the team is still competing for a playoff spot later on, but if the offense performs like it did on Monday with Jackson on the bench half the game, they might be out of the race sooner rather than later.
The Eagles going with a youth movement at receiver this season, and moving on from both Alshon Jeffery and Jackson, would have been an understandable decision.
Keeping Jackson on the roster, and then only playing him 54% of the snaps in the first game, however, is a curious decision.
You can reach Eliot Shorr-Parks on Twitter at @EliotShorrParks or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org!