The Los Angeles Rams offensively have been consistent when it comes to a decent run game and a pretty elite passing attack. Since Sean McVay took over in 2017, the team has relied a great deal on short-yard gains and yards after catches. Don’t get me wrong, it has worked. But the Rams have been missing that one important element to the game: a deep threat.
In seasons past, both in both St. Louis and since the team returned to Los Angeles, the wide receiving corps have had some players who were considered the deep threat option. Names like Torry Holt, Tavon Austin, and more recently, Sammy Watkins and Brandin Cooks carried the role for their former quarterbacks.
Now with Matthew Stafford in place of Jared Goff, DeSean Jackson now becomes that new deep threat. But it begs the question: does Jackson still have any magic left in the tank?
Jackson returns to his hometown where he grew in nearby Crenshaw and played high school football at Long Beach Polytechnic where he became one of the top wide receiver recruits in the nation and was named the 2004 Glenn Davis Award winner by the Los Angeles Times as Southern California’s player of the year.
In his introductory interview with the media back in March, Jackson spoke about what it’s like being home and where he is mentally and physically at this point of his career despite recent injuries.
[On being born and raised in L.A.] “Being able to have that upcoming and background from me being able to be raised here when I go all across the world is like a demeanor you carry yourself with, it’s a swag you have,” Jackson said. “For me to be back here in L.A., I know the inner cities very well, I came from that, and I just want to reach back and help pull people out of the properties or the slums they’re stuck at. They don’t really have the opportunity to get out of there and see things different.”
“As far as right now I’m feeling great, feeling one hundred percent healthy and the rehab process has been going well,” Jackson said. “It feels good to be back home and use some of the greatest trainers I have here and take advantage of that. I’m easing my way back into the swing of things, but the process has been great overall, and I can’t wait to get back on the field.”
Prior to the signing of Jackson, McVay and general manager Les Snead spoke about the possibility of adding a deep threat option and considered it to be more of a luxury than a necessity, knowing the talent they already have with Stafford coming in.
“Anytime that you have guys that can do that, that definitely is a benefit,” McVay said. “But we have guys on our roster that have done that when you look at the big-play production from those guys in particular. Saw a lot of good things from some younger players that we drafted last year, but we’re always trying to add some juice and we’ll see what the next month and a half entails.”
The Rams signed Jackson less than a week later.
Jackson’s relationship with McVay from their time in Washington D.C. adds to his potential to actually make a larger impact than many people may think. It’s a perfect combination given McVay’s priority in wanting to create more explosive plays on offense and Jackson’s overall career average of 17.4 yards per reception, the highest among active players, according to Pro-Football-Reference.com.
Meanwhile, Stafford’s 9.0 average intended air yards – air yards defined by Next Gen Stats as “the vertical yards on a pass attempt at the moment the ball is caught in relation to the line of scrimmage” – tied with Deshaun Watson and Baker Mayfield for sixth highest in the league last year.
In other words, the numbers suggest Stafford and Jackson are likely to connect and help McVay accomplish his goal of explosiveness.
“It was very intriguing to be able to come back and remerge with someone who really knows me,” Jackson said. “People who really know me know how hardworking I am and how much I want to do what I can to help my team win. I think it’s going to be a great reemergence because he knows me, how to utilize me and put me in the best positions to win.”
[On excitement to play with Stafford] “I could not ask for a better situation to have a quarterback and I know it’s going to be special,” Jackson said. “That dude is a beast and his arm is out of this world so I’m excited to start working with him and I’ll just tell him to throw it far and I’ll run far to catch it.”
Off the field, Jackson has used his platform to give back to the community and has actually written and released two anti-bullying children’s books called No Bullies in the Huddle.
In September of 2019, Jackson donated $30,000 to the Cali Bears Youth Football and Cheerleaders and helped save their season. The Cali Bears Youth Football team was founded in 2018 and is based in Los Angeles, serving more than 150 disadvantaged, inner-city youth in South Central Los Angeles.
“I’m continuously in those areas to help change the mentality from how we were raised, how we grew up, just really trying to spread positivity and have kids stay in school, stay off the streets, stay away from drugs,” Jackson said. “I’m really trying to create platforms and opportunities for these young kids to have somebody to lean on when they feel like they’re down and out and don’t have anyone to listen to or get answers from, that’s what I see myself bringing to the city. Something I’ve already been doing.”