One comparison with more notable implications: in 2008 and 2014 alike, the Eagles used their second Draft selection on a wide receiver in round two.
Easy to figure out where this is going. In 2008, Napoleonic scrapper DeSean Jackson was imported from the University of California. This year, the considerably taller Jordan Matthews from Vanderbilt entered the fold.
Both men instantly resonated with the Philadelphia fanbase. With Jackson, it appeared the city was getting a rocket-fueled, lighter-weight Steve Smith. In Matthews' case, fans looked at the taller, good-hands receiver as a colossal Reggie Wayne.
For six years with the toes of "Action Jackson" at the line, the roller coaster traversed many ups and downs. For every 70-yard afterburner touchdown, there was Jackson losing five or ten yards on a punt return, running haphazardly backwards to try and create a seam.
Jackson scored 39 touchdowns in Philadelphia, none more famous than the walk-off in the "New Miracle" game, leaving fans in East Rutherford disgustedly stunned. Detractors will remind you that it could have been 40 touchdowns, had Jackson not flung a sure touchdown behind his back at the one-yard line against the Cowboys in his rookie year. Posturing before angry Texans took precedent against getting the team over.
It was far from Jackson's only jaw-clenching moment with the Eagles. From getting benched by Andy Reid for missing a team meeting, to instigating on-field skirmishes with his caustic demeanor, Jackson at times felt like a travel-sized version of Terrell Owens. It was easier to tolerate the nonsense when the playmaker's bag of tricks appeared bottomless.
Now divorced from Philadelphia for reasons that have never been fully laid out, Jackson got the opportunity to return in burgundy and gold as a Washington Redskin. Despite a shoulder injury sustained a week ago, Jackson was adamant that he would play against his former team, reportedly announcing his intent to play via text to former brother-in-cleats LeSean McCoy.
Jackson would have his moment in the sun among his old stamping grounds, beating the coverage on an 81-yard touchdown pass to tie the game late in the third quarter. Boos reigned down as Jackson, true to form, high-stepped to the side while mock-flapping his arms. Sing the fight song now, he possibly seethed.
Jackson got what he wanted if you believe a tweet shared by Bleeding Green Nation's Brandon Lee Gowton. Barring a debunking, you could take the message most literally and not be too surprised.
The other half of the 2008-14 parallel is Matthews, a slow-built slot receiver that made good on an offseason of fan giddiness with two touchdown grabs on eight receptions, working in concert with Nick Foles to steer the 21-20 halftime lead.
So proud of being able to help the team was Matthews after the first touchdown that Foles, the driver of the NFL's zippiest Porsche of an offense, ran after the discarded football that Matthews left behind. Some players demand their first touchdown ball on a silver platter. Matthews temporarily forgot his, and had to be handed it by the owner of the greatest TD-INT ratio that the NFL has ever seen.
Matthews held onto both footballs, but they're minor spoils in the grand scheme. Interviewed on WIP hours after the game, the journalist mentioned he was carrying the 'game balls', to which a soft-spoken Matthews politely corrected him. The 'game ball' wouldn't go to him, said he, as he quickly raved about the presence of kicker Cody Parkey under pressure, and gushed about Malcolm Jenkins and the timely interception that would put the game juuuust out of reach.
In an interview only heard by Eagles fans in their cars, filling time in between studio show talking-points, Matthews took a low-wattage spotlight that he'd more than earned, and spun it around to illuminate his comrades.
There will be more touchdowns that find their way into Matthews' mitts. There's bound to be games where he makes the big third-down catch that refreshes those downs. Maybe there's a 100-yard game or two, or more, in Matthews this season, as the offense divvies up the wealth.
Matthews seems content to take his share, and pay it forward in homage.
If DeSean Jackson didn't fit in with Chip Kelly's Eagles from a 'football standpoint', Matthews fits from a mental standpoint. Matthews'll never be as fast or maybe even as versatile as his 2008 counterpart, but at the other extreme, Jackson will probably never learn the old "I in Team" adage either.
Jackson got what he asked for out of Sunday. Matthews spread his excess around the locker room and, as a result, has more than Jackson could ever know.
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