desean jackson smile2

Let’s talk about DeSean Jackson, OK? Because he’s been really good.

Jackson currently has 297 receiving yards, and last year at this time he had 191 yards. He also has five more catches through two games (16 now and 11 last year), and that includes a career high nine this past Sunday. Powered by a 61-yard touchdown catch, he averaged 21.4 yards per grab during that loss to San Diego, stretching his overall average so far this year to 18.6. His average last year? 15.6, and he’s already matched his 2012 touchdown total with a score in two straight games.

We talked about running all offseason when attempting to crack the code of Chip Kelly’s offense. We talked about tempo too, deception, and quick-strike passing. But often, Jackson was an afterthought. Now? ha.

Following his 193 yards in Week 2 (his second highest single-game output), Jackson is leading the league in receiving yards, and it’s not close. At 297 yards, he’s well ahead of Julio Jones’ 258 following two straight games with over 100 yards, and one with much more.

Quickly, Jackson is becoming a fantasy stud in Kelly’s offense, and he’s providing great value. Only a few weeks ago he was selected with the 71st overall pick on average, and the elites like Jones came off the board nearly 50 picks earlier. But it’s how he’s getting those yards and value that’s, well, different.

Jackson is still running fast and far, and then catching long passes. His 61 yarder Sunday was actually one of four times he was targeted deep by Michael Vick, as he caught a 41-yarder too, while another long touchdown was called back because of a penalty, and a ball bounced off his fingertips. But as Tim McManus observed, Kelly is smartly utilizing Jackson’s speed in space, and he’s now often being associated with an aspect of offense he rarely touched: the short passing game.

From McManus:

Of his 16 catches on the season to date, 10 have been within nine yards of the line of scrimmage, per Pro Football Focus. Four of those grabs came behind the line as part of Chip Kelly‘s bubble-screen game. (He caught seven passes behind the line all of last year.) Kelly is dialing up Jackson’s number quite a bit on the short routes and allowing him to create, which is a big part of it.

That’s a quarter of Jackson’s receptions coming behind the line of scrimmage, when he can then look to be creative and essentially act like a punt returner, something he also does pretty well.

His involvement in the short game will, in theory, lead to more consistency simply through the increased touches he’s receiving. Jackson’s 2012 season was cut short due to an injury, but when we go back one more year to his last fully healthy season, we see that he had six games with 80 or more receiving yards, but also six with 35 or less. Boom or bust defined.

That Jackson is maybe, probably, and hopefully gone now, and the current version under Kelly is outperforming an entire team. No, he really is…

 

More notes, stray thoughts, and other such randomness

The NFL’s new player health concern

The league is aware of its concussion problem, and has taken measures to protect the short- and long-term health of its players over the past few seasons. Roger Goodell is also now becoming aware of the consequences of those measures, with defender’s target areas lowering to the knees. In time, installing a safe hitting zone between the knees and shoulders may be the next frontier.

But we’re all overlooking the main problem here, one the players don’t talk about much because of embarrassment. Young players are exposing their peers to far too much flatulence, creating an unsafe work environment.

Britt be Britt’ing

Kenny Britt is a truly unique individual, one who doesn’t seem to recognize how lucky he is to call pro football his job. He’s been arrested multiple times, and he’s shredded his knee multiple times, both things that don’t exactly raise his trade value and his worth on the open market.

He probably knows all of that, and after the Titans spent two early-round picks on receivers over the past two years (Justin Hunter and Kendall Wright) he can see his future, and it’s not happening in Tennessee. Still, even if that’s true and right now he’s playing his final games as a Titan, this isn’t a good look for Britt’s future employer…

Reports yesterday that he would be cut by Tennessee because of that tweet were quickly debunked, but even though he may be going about this in a way that’s less than intelligent, Britt is probably right. He’s likely gone after this year, and although there are few notable transactions around the NFL’s trade deadline, Britt moving to a wide receiver needy team could be one of them.

Say, Tom Brady, you’d like to have a fellow who can catch a ball, right?

Cam Newton is pressing

Hey don’t get mad at me, Panthers fan. Steve Smith said it, not I:

“What the current issue is, you have a young player pressing. And what do I mean by pressing? You know when a young player, a receiver, if he doesn’t get a lot of passes, all of sudden instead of going down he fights for that extra yard, fumble. That’s what you’re seeing with Cam a little bit, I feel like, in the past game is, well, [imitates stammering] and now you got that pressing.

“And that pressing isn’t because, oh, it’s when you’re not moving the ball down the field. Young players do it. And he has to understand that. And that’s just part of being young. It’s not just a quarterback issue, it’s tight end, wide receiver, running back. It’s when you press and you have that competitiveness in you. You’re like, ‘Man, I can change things if I just throw it here, if I just do that.’ And that’s the only bad part about a young player is when they press. That’s what’s going on is that pressing.”

That’s Smith during his weekly radio appearance on WFNZ in Carolina (truthfully, I could just put together any four random letters there and you’d believe me). He describes Newton’s play by comparing it to what’s most familiar, and to simplify it further, he’s saying that to compensate for a brief fight with inaccuracy the quarterback has abandoned his fundamentals and is no longer doing the little, simple things.

Newton is now becoming known for his slow starts. Last year over the first three weeks he chucked five interceptions, and he then threw only six throughout the rest of the year. Now turnovers aren’t his problem, and instead he’s struggling to generate anything downfield.

In two games he’s attempted 61 passes, and only thee of those have resulted in completions down the field of 20 yards or more. By extension he also then has a poor yards per attempt of 5.8, a steep early decline from his overall total of 8.0 last year. He’s also rushed for only 53 yards so far, a mediocre number for a mobile quarterback who averaged 46.3 rushing yards per game in 2012.

If last year serves as a case study, then he’ll be fine, and he’ll morph back into Superman around mid-season (starting in Week 9, Newton had six games with a passer rating over 90.0). So eventually, both fantasy owners and irate Panthers fans will forget these sad times. Until then, stay safe out there.

Elsewhere in wide receivers assessing quarterbacks

Pierre Garcon delivered an important common sense reminder regarding Robert Griffin III, and his lack of mobility:

“When you’re walking around with a knee brace or playing with a knee brace, obviously it’s slowing you down a little bit,” he said. “It’s just natural. It’s common … . I don’t know how much it weighs, exactly, but you always think about it when you have it on there, and it’s a constant reminder.

“It’s not gonna let you be the guy you are without the knee brace. When you have something around your knees — the more equipment you have on, it’s obviously distracting you or slowing you down from being as free as loose as yourself without any equipment on.”

That’s some serious truth talk, and to anyone who’s watched Redskins football this year (which is everyone), what we expected has been exactly what’s happened. Griffin has still been moderately mobile and able to scramble around to escape pressure. But he’s not nearly as fast as he was last year, which is severely limiting the explosiveness of the Redskins’ offense.

How fast was he last year? Welp…