In conducting the autopsy on the 2020 Rams‘ season, one of the big takeaways outside of a much-needed upgrade at quarterback was a glaring need for a burner. The Rams have plenty of talent at receiver but lacked that deep threat that Sean McVay loves to have. Brandin Cooks was traded the previous off-season because he couldn’t stay healthy (the same reason why Sammy Watkins was expendable) and Josh Reynolds was never going to be that guy even if he put speed holes in his shoes.
Les Snead then decided to take a flyer on a guy who is the textbook definition of a burner in DeSean Jackson. DeSean Jackson joins the Rams at 34 years old and while he’s had his own share of health issues the last few years, training camp videos show a rejuvenated Jackson who has a chance to win a ring back home where he belongs.
Prior to being drafted by the Eagles in 2008, Jackson was a highly decorated high school and college athlete across multiple sports. In addition to being a top-rated wide receiver at football factory high school Long Beach Poly, Jackson also played baseball and ran track. In fact, as a track star, he ran the 100-meter dash in 10.5 seconds. He amassed 843 yards, 48 catches, and eight receiving touchdowns in his senior year while having four return touchdowns and averaged 60.2 yards a game. He won a CIF title where he also played defensive back grabbing two picks, one of which went for a touchdown against Los Alamitos High School.
His illustrious high school career ended with both the 2004 Glenn Davis Award for athlete of the year from the LA Times and he was the MVP of the US Army All-American Bowl with a stat line of seven catches, 141 yards, and a touchdown. He did experience a humbling moment and precursor for an infamous moment in his rookie year when he tried to flip into the endzone only to fall on the one-yard line (more on that later). Still, his high school year was absolutely extraordinary and would take his talents to Berkely playing for the Cal Golden Bears.
At CAL, Jackson’s freshman year saw him getting both a receiving touchdown and a punt return touchdown in his first game and he finished with 38 catches, 601 yards, and seven touchdowns, culminating with 130 yards and two touchdowns in the La Vegas Bowl against BYU.
His sophomore year was even better with 1,060 yards, nine TDs, and four punt returns TDs leading to All Pac-10 honors both as a receiver and a returner. The AP even recognized him on the All-America team and he would win the first-ever Randy Moss award as a return specialist.
Year three was bumpier as he experienced injuries so he only netted 65 catches and 762 yards BUT still managed to make the All-American team as a returner. Prior to the draft, he even received plaudits from Jerry Rice who stated “There’s no reason he can’t be everything he wants to be at the next level”. As Nic Cage would say “That’s high praise!”.
The Rams could’ve had DeSean Jackson in the NFL draft in either the first or second round but opted for Chris Long (good pick), or with their 33rd pick in Round two but decided on wide receiver Donnie Avery (D’OH). Instead, of course, DeSean Jackson was selected 49th by the Eagles in between Fred Davis and Calais Campbell.
He came into the NFL like a bolt of lightning. He was the first rookie to start for Andy Reid and against the Rams, he piled up 200 all-purpose yards, and infamously on Monday Night against the Cowboys he had the play where he dropped the ball at the one-yard line. A play that would be immortalized as a plot point in “Silver Linings Playbook”, also Bradley Cooper’s Pat Solitano wears a DeSean Jackson jersey throughout the film. His time with the Eagles was often eventful recording absurd stat lines, being a human highlight reel, and getting the occasional fine for taunting. Unfortunately, while the plays were dazzling, he began to incur injuries that would lead to him leaving the Eagles after the 2013 season, (he was named to three Pro Bowls and left the team 4th all-time in franchise yards, eighth in catches, and ninth in touchdowns).
His time with Washington was marred by injuries, but like in Philadelphia, also had some absolutely astounding moments. He became the third player to score an 80-yard touchdown both for and against his former team. He also managed to post two thousand-yard seasons before leaving for Tampa.
In 2017, he signed a three-year deal with the Bucs, and for the second time in his career, failed to finish with 1,000 yards receiving and once again dealt with injury after injury causing the team to trade him back to Philly for an insulting 7th-rounder. The second stint in Philly started off like his first, with a BANG by catching 8 passes, 154 yards, and two touchdowns against Washington, allowing him to pass Randy Moss in touchdowns over 50-yards. Unfortunately, he would go on IR. In 2019, things once again started strong but he would deal with hamstring injuries. Despite that, he still set the record for touchdowns of 60 yards more. Sadly, the Eagles let him go once again.
At 34, DeSean Jackson’s NFL career has resulted in 10,656 yards, 612 catches, 56 receiving touchdowns, four return touchdowns, and he was named to three Pro Bowls and a second All-Pro team. The perception was that after all the injuries it would seem he could no longer tap into the speed force. That is until Sean McVay, again, needing a speedster, took a one-year gamble on him. He no longer has to be the man and instead just gets to be the home run threat.
Based on footage coming out of training camp, DeSean Jackson and Matthew Stafford have developed quite a rapport. Jackson looks like his old self again and Sean McVay finally has the deep threat he’s always wanted. Jackson isn’t going to be asked to catch too many balls a game so his chances for injury are lower, as well. DeSean Jackson has the chance to do what many players struggle to do in tailoring their game as they age. This is the perfect role for a 34 year Jackson to play.
DeSean Jackson grew up in Crenshaw, became a high school star in Long Beach, and a collegiate All-American in Berkley. Now as a 34-year-old pro, DeSean Jackson has the potential to finally win a Super Bowl in Los Angeles. If he can overcome his recent bout with injuries, the Rams’ already dynamic offense has the chance to be absolutely explosive. Winning a championship where it all started, would be the perfect Hollywood ending to what has been an accomplished and electric career. Get your popcorn ready!