Darrell Jackson - Where's the Love?

As fans, we have a tendency to form a dislike for players who don't fit our ideal of how a football player should be off the field. DT Marcus Tubbs might possibly be the only under-hyped first-round draft choice in the history of the NFL. Nobody really appreciated his impact on our run defense… until Larry Johnson ran over Seattle's defense for 159 yards and 4 touchdowns while Tubbs was injured.

It took RB Shaun Alexander 1,880 yards rushing, an NFL record for touchdowns, and the MVP award before fans stopped believing that we could insert Maurice Morris and get similar production (how HAS that worked out, by the way?).

And that brings us to the focus of this article, WR Darrell Jackson. Jackson didn’t attract a whole lot of attention coming into the league, and why should he? A 3 rd round draft choice, of middling height and middling speed, there wasn’t a whole lot for fans to ogle at. Yet in his rookie year, Jackson caught 53 passes for 713 yards and 8 touchdowns, very impressive numbers for a rookie wideout on a crappy team learning the West Coast Offense, which is considered a 200 level class at some academic institutions. He followed that performance by wracking up 1,081 yards in his second year, again, very impressive for a second year player.

Fast forwarding to 2006, it is another season as usual for Darrell Jackson, who is on pace for his best season yet. Halfway through the season, he has 41 receptions for 623 yards, and 6 scores. It’s another season as usual for Jackson, who has hit 1,000 yards every healthy year since his rookie season. It’s another season as usual in more ways than one, as the offseason was again filled with drug-induced remarks that Seattle should trade Jackson, cut Jackson, bench Jackson, sell Jackson to cannibals, start D.J. Hackett over Jackson (this gem made halfway through the season as Jackson projects to 1,200 yards and 12 scores) just do anything to get rid of the guy.

Myth - Jackson isn’t tough:

Ask Redskins FS Sean Taylor how tough Jackson is. Taylor, one of the most intimidating safeties in the league and an explosive hitter, tried to lay the wood on Jackson while Jackson was catching the ball ( Jackson held on). The result? Jackson was fine and played the next down, while Taylor was sidelined for several series.

Myth – Jackson drops too many passes:

Drops are annoying to every fan. They represent what we view as blown opportunities – and they are. Of course, Randy Moss drops a lot of passes (he might have reached double digit drops in Seattle’s 16-0 win against Oakland). Terrell Owens drops a lot of passes. Chad Johnson/Ocho Cinco is always a candidate to lead the league in drops. Joe Horn will drop some really easy passes. Torry Holt is a fabulous player, who also drops his share of passes (never against Seattle thought). The reason all these players drop passes is because they’re targeted 120, 130 times over the course of a season. A few of those passes are going to go right through the hands.

Myth – Jackson’s drops are indicative of an inability to catch:

If only it were true. Using Football Outsiders' Catch %, which takes the number of passes completed from passes thrown, Jackson finds himself in pretty good company. Jackson’s 58% catch percentage puts him in great company: Reggie Wayne (Colts, 58%), Marques Colston (Saints, 60%), Roy Williams (Lions, 58%), Joe Horn (Saints, 60%), Lee Evans (Bills, 57%), Hines Ward (Steelers, 59%), Terrell Owens (Cowboys, 54%), the list goes on and on. What else does Jackson have in common with those wide receivers? They’re all in the top 25 in DPAR (Defense-adjusted Points Above Replacement, which is explained here), Football Outsiders’ receiver ranking metric.

Just for giggles, let’s look at the fact that Jackson’s 58% blows the following receivers out of the water: Eagles WR Reggie Brown (51%), Rams WR and licensed Seahawks killer, Tory Holt (52%), Raiders WR Randy Moss (45%), and Seattle’s very own Deion Branch, who has caught just 51% of passes thrown his way.

Myth – Jackson isn’t clutch:

Let’s just look at the eight games that he’s played this year. In the Detroit game, Jackson’s reverse was the biggest play of the day and reenergized the offense – and lead to the offense’s march down the field for Josh Brown’s winning field goal. Against St. Louis, Jackson breathed life into the team with his touchdown reception in triple coverage. Against Kansas City, it was Jackson who caught the go-ahead touchdown lob to put Seattle ahead. Out of the eight games we’ve played, Jackson had game-changing receptions in three of them.

Myth – Jackson is a locker room cancer:

Jackson signed his contract with one boss, and was promised that he would receive a raise if other people in his field started getting bigger paychecks. A new boss comes along and refuses to uphold that agreement. Obviously Jackson is angry, and put yourself in that situation. If you don’t feel like you are earning fair pay, you can quit your job. Jackson has no such outlet. But does Jackson throw the ownership, the coaching staff, or his teammates under the bus? No. He misses some voluntary mini-camps then comes back in time for training camp. Does Jackson whine constantly to his teammates and cause locker room tension? It sounds like just the opposite. Nobody has made comments that Jackson is anything other than a great teammate. His handling of his contract situation is more admirable than Branch’s, who held out through the regular season for his payday.

In the end, it’s obvious what Jackson is going to bring you. He’s not going to be big or fast. He’s going to run razor-sharp routes that leave defenders 8-yards away from the ball. He’s going to drop some really easy passes. He’s going to be Seattle’s best deep threat, due to his combination of decent size, decent speed, and tenacity going for the ball. He’s going to be excellent at wracking up YAC, a key aspect of the West Coast Offense. He’s going to be a tenacious downfield blocker. He’s going to catch over 80 passes for 1,100 yards, all with that goofy King-Tut-inspired goatee and his smile.

The Seattle fanbase should embrace Darrell Jackson, and stop thinking up scenarios that involve his release.

Kyle Rota is our MMQB, and is also known as "Rotak" on our message boards. You can e-mail him here.

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