Heading into this season, many were expecting big things from Desean Jackson. Some thought he had the ideal skill set to really excel in Chip Kelly's fast-paced, "gimmicky" offense. Some dreamed of the Eagles employing Desean Jackson in ways similarly to how Kelly deployed Desean's little cousin, De'Anthony Thomas. As we've seen Thomas in Oregon this year, I think we can all agree, it wasn't a great comparison. Desean is a special player, but he's not that kind of play who is a WR/RB hybrid.
Desean's first year with Chip Kelly has been a massive success. After yesterday, he's reached career highs in receptions, yards and TDs with 2 games remaining. He's done that despite having to play with 3 different QBs, and he's done it a more well-rounded way than his production in the past. In short, Desean has gotten the ball all over the field and made things happen. All that said, Kelly hasn't done anything particularly exotic with Desean. He's largely played WR, there have not been a lot of gimmick plays, and he's just been beating his man or zone coverage to the turn of big yards.
Then yesterday happened. Desean exploded for 10 catches 195 yards and a TD. And it could have been even better. More importantly to the context of this post, Desean had this success largely based on game-planning and scheming.
A few weeks back, we pointed out Kelly used Desean Jackson creatively on a wheel route out of the backfield. It was a great way to force some coverage confusion and see if you can get him in a favorable matchup. Turns out on the highlighted play that Desean was matched up against Patrick Peterson, but still beat him. There aren't many Patrick Peterson's in this league. I think this play is really designed to free up Jackson and to form a favorable match-up. And that's just what happened yesterday.
Desean is lined up in the backfield in a 2-back set. The key defender to watch is highlighted in red, Safety Robert Blanton:
Desean runs the wheel route, and Blanton picks him up in coverage. Desean Jackson against a safety? Geesh:
Foles does not hesitate to get rid of the ball:
Easy pitch and catch for big yards:
This wasn't the only time we featured Desean in the backfield. This was a new wrinkle. Desean in the backfield in a one back set:
Celek is going to come on a drag route looking to pick off some defenders as Desean leaks through the backfield. Because Desean is so small, it can't be easy for defenders to see him through the line. This is genius. Celek draws three defenders with the intention to pick off Desean's man:
He doesn't get the pick, but re-routes the defender just enough so Desean is open underneath:
For a nice first down conversion, again, on the safety Blanton:
So nice, in fact, we did it twice. Desean in the backfield again. This time Celek, Avant, and Polk run clear out routes, opening up the middle of the field:
And it's the safety, Blanton again, playing way off and left to clean up the mess:
Love to see Desean win this one-on-one a bit more cleanly. Blanton gets just enough of him so the result is only a nice gain, instead of an explosive play:
Desean's day could have been bigger. Have to admit, I didn't love this play call, but it almost worked to perfection. Check out the tight formation below. Look at all the purple in the red circle. In fact, the Vikings don't have even one defender outside the numbers. Seems to suggest Chip is going to take the edges:
As the play starts to develop, look at the spaces on the edges. More importantly, look at the Vikings reaction to the end around at the top of the screen. They've got it snuffed, but as a result leave that backside wide open. Note this highlights the problem I have with the call. It's 4th and 1, and we run a play that involves the ball carrier to get the ball 11 yards behind the LOS. You only need 1 yard, but you put your offense in a position where they have to gain 12:
Fortunately, it works, but unfortunately it puts Foles in a position he's not used to being in. Honestly, Foles has taken some flak for this...but in the moment, I don't know how he doesn't make this block. He's making the decision right now in the image below that he needs to give Desean some more room. Especially since it's 4th down:
It's only here that it's become clearly evident that Foles probably doesn't need to block this man and by then it is too late:
One more. Desean in the slot. Check out the space given to him by #35 Sherels.
Desean is just going to run a shallow drag:
And look at the space between him and the defender. This is where he can show his elusiveness: