- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 21, 2014

The last question asked of DeSean Jackson in front of his locker Wednesday afternoon was a simple one: What stands out about the Philadelphia Eagles defense?

Jackson listened to the question, grimaced and shook his head.

“Not talking about them bro,” he replied.

Incendiary on the field but reserved in the locker room, Jackson didn’t want to talk about his former team or the looming matchup against it Saturday. He didn’t want to dwell on the organization that drafted him, gave him a home for the first six years of his career and then unceremoniously cut him for an unspecified reason.

Jackson didn’t want to make it all about him.

But every time he sped past an Eagles cornerback Saturday evening, tracking the ball in the air and pulling it down for a momentum-shifting gain, the extra motivation Jackson brought to the field was evident. It was clear when he jawed with his old teammates between plays and skipped across the grass after the final whistle was blown, when he sarcastically flapped his arms like an eagle as he left the field and when he posted a photo of the act on Instagram afterwards.

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“Get them Outta here !!,” he wrote in the caption.

Jackson got a measured dose of revenge in Washington’s 27-24 victory at FedEx Field, catching four passes for 126 yards, including 55- and 51-yard completions. In the process, he surpassed 1,000 receiving yards on the season, all while playing through nagging injuries and watching the Redskins cycle through three quarterbacks.

Washington’s season has been a disappointing one for Jackson, but on Saturday, those disappointments were forgotten.

“It was a very special day for myself, being there [in Philadelphia] last year and everything happening,” Jackson said. “For us to come out on top like that, that’s a great one.”

The Eagles routinely use man coverage on wide receivers, regardless of the receiver’s ability or explosiveness. “That’s their style of play,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden explained.

Washington knew this entering Saturday’s game, and therefore they also knew that there would be several instances in which Jackson would be matched up one-on-one against a single cornerback. There were opportunities to be seized.

The first such moment came late in the first quarter, when Jackson raced past cornerback Bradley Fletcher and cradled Robert Griffin III’s pass for a 51-yard completion. It happened again late in the third, when Jackson again beat Fletcher, this time for a 55-yard gain.

Afterwards, Jackson was asked if he was surprised that Philadelphia did not adjust its coverage schemes to account for his speed.

“Not at all,” he said. “They’re very naive and they play how they play. So they can care less who’s out there or who’s at wide receiver. They’re going to play their defense the way they play it. I’m just glad I was able to get the opportunities I got on them.”

The plays were meaningful for Jackson, who now has seven catches of 50 yards or more this season, the most by any Redskins receiver since at least 2000. But they also helped ignite Washington’s offense, which had been largely stagnant at home this season.

Jackson’s first long completion led to a 28-yard touchdown run by Alfred Morris on the next play, while the second resulted in a 1-yard run by fullback Darrel Young.

“When you get those big gains like that from DeSean Jackson, it shortens the field that much more,” Morris said. “It’s definitely a huge momentum boost.”

The two throws from Griffin were adequate, but not perfect. Each required Jackson to adjust to the ball while it was in the air, something he has practiced for years and years dating back to his childhood in Los Angeles. He credited his trainers for helping him develop the skills through long hours and early-morning practices.

“I take pride in big plays and being that guy … regardless of my stretch or my height,” Jackson said. “When that ball is in the air, I’m going to track it down. I’ve practiced a long time, a lot of hours, many weeks, many days doing that.

“It paid off. As a little kid, I challenge everybody to just go out there and if you want to do something, just work at it. That’s all I can say. I worked at it. I wanted to be great. So with the opportunities I’ve been given, I make the most out of them.”

Eagles coach Chip Kelly saw that Fletcher was unable to stop Jackson and benched him at one point in favor of Maryland product Nolan Carroll. Kelly was asked afterwards if Philadelphia’s inability to stop Jackson had him re-think the decision to release his former star.

“No,” Kelly said. “I was thinking about the football game.”

After signing with a division rival in April, Jackson has few fans left in Philadelphia. When he was shown on the jumbotron at FedEx Field relaying a holiday message, he was booed loudly by the large contingent of Eagles fans in the stands.

Still, Jackson said he has a strong relationship with several Eagles players, including close friend LeSean McCoy. “They constantly tell me how much they miss me and they wish I was still there,” Jackson said.

But the Eagles are not his focus. Jackson didn’t want to think or talk too much about his former team last week, and he won’t want to think or talk about them this week. That chapter in his career has already been written. It’s over. “I’m happy to be here in Washington,” the 28-year-old said.

But that doesn’t make revenge any less sweet.

“I can tell it meant a lot to a lot of guys in the locker room to get this win,” Griffin said. “Obviously, D-Jax being the happiest of us all.”

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