The first thing that pops up on search engines when you go to look for DeSean Jackson, newly signed wire receiver for the Washington Redskins is “DeSean Jackson gang signs”. The next thing you find is the litany of “addition by subtraction” columns by nonplussed Philadelphia sportswriters.
So this move isn’t without its share of inherent risk.
DeSean Jackson is an extremely talented football player. He’s got game-changing speed both in the passing and return games. He destroyed the Redskins at every opportunity — the Skins just didn’t (and still don’t) have anyone with the outright athleticism capable of guarding him. He’s impossible to defend on the outside in single coverage.
Jackson is a three-time Pro Bowl player and the first to be selected at two different positions in one season. In 2010 he was named as both a wide receiver and return specialist. He is 27 years old — in the absolute prime of his career.
So what’s the problem?
He is reported to be divisive, owns a bad attitude, an inconsistent work ethic and a lack of chemistry with Eagles second-year head coach Chip Kelly. On top of all that, some of his buddies from back home in L.A. are alleged gang members that have been connected to a pair of homicides in 2010.
In no report that I can find does it mention that Jackson had any involvement whatsoever in those homicides, or that Jackson’s association with these alleged gang members is anything more than casual.
Still, the associations with his buddies from home linger and cause a distraction whenever any discussion of Jackson is mentioned. Jackson has denied having any involvement in gang activities and is not currently under investigation (at least publicly) for any wrongdoings.
“I would like to make it very clear that I am not and never have been part of any gang,” Jackson said last week in a statement following the NJ.com story about his gang ties. ”I am not a gang member and to speculate and assume that I am involved in such activity off the field is reckless and irresponsible. I work very hard on and off the field and I am a good person with good values.”
But the distraction lingers.
The distractions are so harsh that the Eagles simply waived Jackson last week, with no compensation whatsoever, rather than deal with the constant distractions. This is an organization that signed another player to a multi-year deal that was captured on video using a racial slur.
So this deal does not come without its share of inherent risk.
Skins GM Bruce Allen and new head coach Jay Gruden know what they are getting themselves into. There’s no ambiguity about the associated risk.
But the reward is potentially huge.
Jackson will pair with Pierre Garcon and free agent Andre Roberts to give the Skins a receiving corps unmatched in Washington since the days of the Fun Bunch and The Posse. Jackson himself is a singular talent in the bunch. He has averaged 17.2 yards per catch in his career. Let that sink in for just a second. The Skins haven’t had anyone average over 17 yards a catch in a season since 2005.
With Robert Griffin III having so many weapons available to him on the field, Gruden’s offense should find success spreading the ball around.
It’s up to Allen, Gruden and the rest of the Redskins front office to mitigate any off-the-field stuff that comes along in the package. What could possibly go wrong there?
Big risk. Huge reward.