I’ve asked a lot of people as to who they thought was the best speed receiver in the league. The most common answer I hear is T.Y. Hilton, and I get it, but Jackson is a guy that paved the way for him and others alike. In fact, DeSean Jackson is still producing at a high level, and that came with three different quarterbacks on a losing team. A team that was new to him, where he instantly asserted himself as the number one target on the Washington Redskins. Rewinding to the days on the Philadelphia Eagles, there were also a lot of people that preferred Jeremy Maclin over Jackson too. I never understood that from the non-Eagles fans because Jackson was the highlight machine making a difference every week. Highlights aren’t everything, but Maclin just finally set similar career-highs in 2014 that Jackson put up under Chip Kelly in 2013. Don’t get me wrong, I like Hilton and Maclin, but go check the statistics and see that they caught 26 and 29 more passes than Jackson without that big of a gap in production. It certainly helps to play on elite offenses like Indy or Philly.
All of last season, and you would agree if you watched the Redskins in action every week, Jackson wasn’t getting the amount of targets that he should have gotten. Again, he led the league in yards per catch with 20. There has been no drop-off in the 28-year-old playmaker, arguably the most elusive player in the game since he entered the league. His coach, Jay Gruden, actually had to dial up an abundance of screens just to get the ball in his hands. His quarterbacks connected with him deep here and there, but their inability to consistently hit an open Jackson downfield capped his yardage out at 1,169. Now with four 1,000-yard seasons and a pair of 900-yard campaigns, D-Jax has also reached the nine touchdown mark twice, and remains one of the most exciting talents to watch in the NFL. I just never hear his name come up in conversations about wide receivers unless I bring him up myself, then the other parties agree with that sense of “oh yeah, DeSean!”
Some guys that may get overshadowed, even if they continue to ball out every week for seasons to come, could very well be Randall Cobb and Emmanuel Sanders. I think the main reason is that they aren’t the big “prototypical” number one receivers. Jackson and Cobb are 5’10, and Sanders is 5’11. Sanders and Cobb run a lot more intermediate routes, but there isn’t much that they can’t do, just like the more popular receivers in the league. Think about your favorite team, so here I’ll use my Eagles, I would be ecstatic if they re-signed Maclin and somehow landed Cobb via free agency this offseason. That would be one of the best tandems in football, regardless of who is slinging the football. These guys deserve some love, and die-hard fans understand their value, but I can’t expect most fans to when TV and radio personalities latch onto the same household names in repetitive segments.
For instance, Julio Jones and A.J. Green are studs, most people like them including myself.That doesn’t necessarily mean that they are more reliable, because their injury history suggest otherwise, which hinders their consistency in production. Or, to compare great players you kind of have to knit pick so, Dez Bryant is a glorified possession receiver. Besides beating Bradley Fletcher of the Eagles deep, like a lot of receivers did last season against the struggling cornerback, Bryant gets a lot of looks on short and intermediate routes. He’s making the plays that Miles Austin made before him, like running a comeback and shedding the first tackle for YAC. That’s part of what makes a receiver good at what they do, and yes I saw him take a screen over 60 yards to the house, but generally that’s not what Bryant does on a weekly basis. He has different strengths, so he isn’t better than the speed receivers at burning a corner and a safety. I’m not just picking on certain players while leaving others out, these are just examples to help prove my point. I’m not a sports writer or fan that believes a number one receiver has to be a physical specimen with freakish features. Just calling it like I see it.