Some guys can play through contract problems without it affecting their performance. As we witnessed last year, DeSean Jackson isn’t one of those guys.
Eagles wide receiver coach David Culley acknowledged what we all pretty much already knew: that Jackson let his unhappiness over his contract situation drag down both his play and the Eagles last season.
"Human nature-wise, yes it affected him,’’ Culley said. "It did. He tried not to let it affect him. Sometimes he didn’t do a very good job of that. It affected him in meetings. It affected him on the field. There were days when it didn’t. But it made him inconsistent. And that’s where the human nature part of it comes in."
Jackson was suspended for one game for missing a team meeting and was benched in the fourth quarter of another game for poor performance. He finished with just four touchdown receptions and his yards-per-catch average dropped nearly six yards from the previous season.
Culley acknowledged that Jackson was reluctant to run routes over the middle last season because of his contract situation.
"I saw a couple of times last year where I saw him maybe trying to maybe save himself because (he was thinking), ` I’m not under contract and I don’t want to get hurt,’’’ Culley said. ``I don’t think there was a fear factor involved. I think it was more, `I don’t want to get hurt because I don’t have a contract.’ The first two-and-a -half years he was here, that wasn’t an issue. A couple of times last year, that came up. And I believe it came up simply because of that."
Jackson signed a new five-year, $47 million contract with the Eagles in March that has dramatically improved his outlook on life and football. The constant pouting of last year was gone this spring, replaced by a happy face.
"I’ve already seen that in the minicamps,’’ Culley said. "That was the same Desean I had the first two years. That is definitely behind him now. Matter of fact, since he’s signed his contract, it hasn’t even been mentioned except to ask him when he’s going to take us all out to eat. Which he hasn’t volunteered to do.’’
Culley expects Jackson to raise up his game this season and once again strike fear into the hearts of opposing defenses.
"We didin’t see it last year simply because of the fact that he was distracted,’’ he said. "I think the fact that the distraction is gone. . . there are very few things he can’t do on the field. Very few things. Other than him not being 6-2, there is nothing that a 6-2 guy can do that he can’t do. So I expect him to be complete.’’
Jackson had just two 100-yard receiving games last season, none after Week 4. Opposing defenses often double- and triple-teamed him.
"What we have done, and coach (Marty) Mornhinweg has done a good job of this, we move him,’’ Culley said. ``We put him in backfield. We put him inside where it’s a little bit tougher to double him. We motion him a lot. We do those kinds of things. We have ways of getting (the double team) off of him.
But when they do that and take him away, that’s when I’ve seen Jeremy (Maclin) and Jason (Avant) have really big games. So eventually, they can’t do that. With Jeremy on one side and Jason inside, that’s a tough deal when we’re executing. So you can’t take him out of the whole ball game.
"Eventually, what (Jackson) has to do is keep his frustration level down. Because there’s two on you, sometimes three. That’s OK because you’re allowing the offense to work. Then all of a sudden they’re not (double-teaming him). When we have him singled, we make an effort to get the ball in his hands.
"He gets frustrated sometimes. So you have to look at the big picture. Last year, because of the things that went on, he didn’t see any picture. Now, I think he understands that.’’