Whether it's catching a ball deep down the field after disconnecting from coverage or hauling in short pass and then sprinting past the defense to go the distance, Washington Redskins wide receiver DeSean Jackson takes pride in being one of the top vertical threats in the NFL today.
"I take pride in big plays and being that guy, say one of the biggest deep people of the year, biggest player of the year, things like that, regardless of my stretch or my height," Jackson said in December. "When that ball is in the air, I'm going to track it down."
A countdown of the top-10 images of wide receiver DeSean Jackson during the 2014 season.
Jackson certainly didn't disappoint in his first season with the Redskins, as he recorded 56 receptions for a team-high 1,169 yards and six touchdowns.
His 20.9 yards per reception was also tops in the NFL.
While the California product makes some of his lengthy plays look relatively easy thanks in large part to his elite speed, his playmaking ability was honed through hours of hard work.
"I've practiced a long time, a lot of hours, many weeks, many days doing that," he said. "I just credit my trainers when I was younger. They just said, 'We're going to get up, we're going to go early in the morning and just go work out.' It paid off. …As a little kid, I challenge everybody to just go out there and if you want to do something, just work at it. That's all I can say. I worked at it. I wanted to be great, so with the opportunities I've been given, I make the most out of them."
When the Philadelphia Eagles ultimately decided to release Jackson last March fresh off his third Pro Bowl appearance, there was a lot of speculation behind the decision.
Regardless of the Eagles' reasoning for letting go of Jackson, his first – and last – free agent trip was to the Redskins.
Signed April 1, Jackson quickly made Washington home and remains "happy to be here."
"Things didn't go the way we wanted it go this year, but at the end of the day, we've got a job to do," Jackson said after the Redskins' 27-24 victory over the Eagles in Week 16. "Any given moment everybody can tuck their tails in, quit and give up, but as you've seen tonight, we fought."
Taking On A Different Form Of Leadership
Jackson admits he's a pretty low-key guy, often taking more of a quiet approach in the locker room and with the media, instead opting to let his play do the talking.
But midway through the 2014 season, Jackson sensed an opportunity to speak up and let his teammates know that while the season wasn't going as anticipated, they still needed to band together and not let the tough times take their toll.
"I felt, me being new to this team, I understand where I've been in the past and things I've been through in my career that I just felt it was needed," he said. "Silence is sometimes a good thing, but if you have a vocal opinion on a certain topic or certain situation, that needs to be spoke on."
While Jackson was tightlipped on what he said to the team behind closed doors, he did admit he wasn't sure how his message was going to be received but was glad he let his voice be heard.
"We're in this locker room together, we work so hard, we compete, we do all them great things together, but if everybody's not on one page, it's really hard to go out there and get the benefit of the doubt that we're trying to get across, winning games," he said. "And just having everybody believing in each other."
Gruden Enjoys What Jackson Brings To The TableWhile head coach Jay Gruden has had success in the NFL in the past with players half Jackson's speed and capabilities, he knows he landed quite the weapon that meshes well with his scheme in the Cal product.
Jackson thrived from the get-go, as he recorded five 100-yard games in the first nine games.
As he battled through injuries and continued to spread out defenses, Gruden said he "gained a lot of respect for DeSean" throughout the 2014 season.
"Whatever happened in the past in Philadelphia I don't know, but I know since that he's been a Washington Redskin, he's been solid to be around," Gruden said in December. "He's been a good worker and obviously he's a big-time threat all the time. …He's a huge play waiting to happen and luckily we were able to use him and get [large] gains because of his speed."