FanPost

Closing the Book on DeSean Jackson

Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE

[Editor's Note: Promoted from the FanPosts. Great, thorough work here by Brad. It's a long one but it's well worth your time.]

This all started out as a simple post because I believe DeSean Jackson is easier to replace than the average Eagles fan does. What this ended up becoming was something much much more, if you read until the end, thank you, it's really damn long. I'm not saying I'm right, or that my opinion is more valuable than anyone else's. My goal here was to build a case for why the Eagles would move on from DeSean from a football standpoint using logic. If I can create a logical case, I'm sure the Eagles, with all the information they have, can build a much better case.

I am very grateful for DeSean Jackson's time with the Philadelphia Eagles. He gave us plenty of unforgettable moments. The walk off punt return in the Miracle at the Meadowlands II, all of the electric plays with Vick (none more memorable than the play to open Monday Night Football in Washington) but I'm perfectly fine with the Eagles letting him go.

Collin Cowherd always says, "Take the emotion out of it." Eagles fans need to take the emotion out of it when it comes to DeSean Jackson. I don't love this move, cutting a pro bowl WR coming off a career year at age 27 isn't something that makes your football team better that day on the field, but it does help the future. There might be a bombshell the Eagles drop on everyone for why DeSean was cut, but I'm going to make a case for why it's a multitude of very logical football reasons paired with the drama he brings.

Ghosts of Philly Wide Receivers Past (Awesome Article and Name)

For starters, Eagles fans have this stigma when it comes to number one wide receivers, like they're irreplaceable and the offense is doomed without them.

Starting with the 2000 Eagles, the top three wide receivers stats from each season.

Catches/Targets/Yards/Touchdowns.

This is purely wide receivers, no running backs or tight ends. Targets are a little tricky to find beyond 2008.

2000

Charles Johnson 69/735/3

Torrence Small 40/642/3

Todd Pinkston 10/181/0

2001

James Thrash 63/833/8

Todd Pinkston 42/586/4 Freddie Mitchell 21/283/1

4 Freddie Mitchell 21/283/1

2002

Todd Pinkston

60/798/7

James Thrash 52/635/6

Antonio Freeman 46/600/4

2003

James Thrash

49/558/1

Todd Pinkston

36/575/2

Freddie Mitchell

35/498/2

2004

Terrell Owens 77/1200/14

Todd Pinkston

36/676/1

Freddie Mitchell 22/377/2

2005

Greg Lewis

48/561/1

Terrell Owens

47/763/6

Reggie Brown

43/571/4

2006

Reggie Brown 46/816/8

Donte' Stallworth 38/725/5

Greg Lewis

24/348/2

2007

Kevin Curtis

77/1110/6

Reggie Brown

61/780/4

Jason Avant

23/267/2

2008

DeSean Jackson 62/121/912/2

Hank Baskett 33/52/440/3

Kevin Curtis

33/390/2

2009

DeSean Jackson

62/117/1156/9

Jeremy Maclin 56/91/773/4

Jason Avant

41/587/3

2010

Jeremy Maclin 70/116/964/10

Jason Avant

51/76/573/1

DeSean Jackson 47/97/1056/6

2011

Jeremy Maclin 63/97/859/5

DeSean Jackson 58/104/961/4

Jason Avant

52/81/679/1

2012

Jeremy Maclin 69/122/857/7

Jason Avant

53/76/648/0

DeSean Jackson 45/85/700/2

2013

DeSean Jackson 82/126/1332/9

Riley Cooper

47/84/835/8

Jason Avant

38/76/447/2

In addition DeSean in 2008: 17/96/1 Rushing and 50/440/1 PR

2009: 11/137/1 Rushing and 29/441/2 PR 2009

2010: 16/104/1 Rushing and 20/231/1 PR

It's easy to understand why Eagles fans are so sensitive to letting DeSean go, maybe more so than another team's fan base might be. There's some depressing wide receiver play from the Eagles in large portions of the last fourteen years. It's fair to at least wonder if Donovan McNabb's growth and potential was stunted by sub par play from the wide receiver position. 2014 however, is not 2000, football has evolved an enormous amount.

So what does all of that tell us?

A couple of things, for starters look how much better the production is from the top three wide receivers from 2013 than compared to every other year (it's almost like this Chip Kelly guy is pretty smart at offense.) Yes, there has been a shift towards a passing league and record passing statistics keep getting shattered, but Chip's offense still produced the best receiver numbers and efficiency by a decent margin. It's not an illogical conclusion to think that Jeremy Maclin, a player who has never had a 1000-yard season, could, if healthy, have a breakout year in this system with Nick Foles at quarterback. Maclin's best season without Chip Kelly yielded 70/116/964/10. DeSean Jackson's best year without the Chippah! yielded 62/117/1156/9. DeSean's career best numbers in 2013 were 82/126/1332/9. That's a significant increase. While DeSean may not have had as high YPC total, he had 20 more receptions, nearly 33% more than his previous career best total. The emergence of Riley Cooper, pre Chip career (46/99/679/5) - 2013 - (47/84/835/8) further supports that Chip Kelly gets the most out of the talent he has at the WR position.

Maclin and Jackson

Maclin's and DeSean's 2012 stats after Foles took over.

Catches/Targets/Yards/Touchdowns

Week 10 DAL

Maclin

8/12/93/1

DeSean

5/8/62/0

Week 11 WAS

Maclin

0/0/0/0

DeSean

2/8/5/0

Week 12 CAR

Maclin

5/7/55/0

DeSean

1/1/9/0

Week 13 DAL

Maclin

3/5/38/0

DeSean is done for the year

Week 14 TB

Maclin

9/13/104/1

Week 15 CIN

Maclin

4/9/73/0

Week 16 WAS

Maclin

8/14/116/1

Week 17 NYG

Vick was QB

Maclin

4/9/22/1

Maclin put up a line of 37/60/479/3 with the rookie Foles at the helm in seven games. One of those games was a terrible all around offensive performance that Maclin didn't catch a pass in. He doesn't get a pass for that, but he's still on the roster, so it's a moot point. On the season Maclin went 69/122/857/7.

So while the sample size might be small, Maclin certainly put good numbers with Foles as his QB. In multiple games Foles put balls up for Maclin to go make a play on showing the first signs of Foles' trust in his receiver's ability to go get the ball once it's in the air. That's not an indictment of anyone, it's just the first time I noticed this strength in Foles game casually watching.

Compound this with DeSean Jackson's numbers once Foles took over in 2013

Week 5

@New York Giants

7/12/132/1

With Vick - 5 targets 2 catches 65 yards 2 drops

Week 6

@Tampa Bay

6/6/64/2

Week 7

VS Dallas

3/8/21/0

Week 8

VS NYG Barkley QB

8/11/63/0

Do what you want with this game

Week 9

@Oakland

5/6/150/1

Week 10

@Green Bay

4/5/80/1

Week 11

VS Washington

4/4/82/0

Week 12 BYE

Week 13

VS Arizona

3/6/36/0

Week 14

VS Detroit

4/7/59/1

Week 15

@Minnesota

10/16/195/1

Offense left much to be desired this game despite gaudy numbers from Foles

Week 16

VS Chicago

4/7/29/0

Week 17

@Dallas

3/4/28/0

Wild Card

VS New Orleans

3/6/53/0

All catches came after Keenan Lewis got hurt

DeSean's regular season numbers once Foles took over read as 53/77/848/6 in 11 games with Foles compared to the 4 games with Vick.

Week 1

@Washington

7/9/104/1

8/7/104/1 by 6:35 Mark of 2nd Quarter

Week 2

VS San Diego

9/15/193/1

Week 3

Vs Kansas City

3/7/62/0

Week 4

@Denver

2/6/34/0

Honestly, this is pretty much a snap shot of the same thing DeSean has always been. An extremely talented player, with enormous highs and low lows, consistently inconsistent, always impacting the game (both good and bad) and usually statistically, productive.

DeSean's efficiency in 2013 cannot be overlooked though. For a player who averages nearly two targets per catch in his career it's interesting to see a 3:2 ratio in 2013. While his game may have taken another step as he's "matured" there's also the possibility that Chip Kelly's offense is incredibly efficient and brings out the best in offensive players. The Nick Foles effect can't be overstated either, he could be impacting this data significantly.

DeSean's best statistical games came with a large influx of targets.

(9) Targets in the first game of the season with Vick, when the offense was still a complete mystery; DeSean racked up all but one of his targets and all of his statistics by the 6:35 mark of the 2nd quarter. While the offense as a whole stalled in this game as it got conservative, it's discouraging to see DeSean held catchless for another half plus of football.

(15) Targets in a great second game with Vick against San Diego. This is DeSean's best game of the year by far, even though it wasn't statistically his best performance. There were 3 targets that didn't result in catches where he had the defense beat over the top. One target was a Foles throw to the end zone. DeSean worked the underneath routes, intermediate stuff, deep routes, in the middle of the field, the seam, the sideline. If DeSean played every game like this he'd still be an Eagles WR.

(12) Targets in the NYG game partially played with Vick and Foles' first extended action of the year. (5) Targets came with Vick for 65 yards, 2 catches and 2 drops.

(8) Targets in an abysmal game from Foles vs Dallas (DeSean was open plenty in this game)

(11) Targets in the Giants game that featured rookie Matt Barkely and a few minutes of Michael Vick. Rookies usually lean on their number one option more heavily.

(16) Targets in a very productive game versus Minnesota, but anyone who watched that game would attest to how bad the offense looked that day. They left so many opportunities on the field and scored most of their points in garbage time. DeSean was used pretty creatively in this game, he had a 20 yard catch out of the back field, an 18 yard end around nullified by a "low block" on Foles. Foles 2nd interception of the season could have been prevented if DeSean came back towards the ball and played it like a DB. DeSean not doing this appears to be what led to the sideline spat. DeSean was the focal point of the offense in this game.

While it may mean nothing, it's certainly interesting that the Eagles seemed to struggle in games where Foles targeted DeSean heavily. It was interesting to look at the other wide receivers that caught close to 60% of their targets. in 2013 Most of them had excellent QB play, but not all. DeSean's previous career high catch percentage on his targets was 55% in 2011. He was near the top of the league in 2013 with 65%.

The Business Side of Football

Let's look at DeSean's Contract

2012

Base Salary

$750,000

Signing Bonus

$2,000,000

Miscellaneous

Bonus

$250,000

Cap Hit

$3,000,000

2013

Base Salary

$6,750,000

Signing Bonus

$2,000,000

Miscellaneous

Bonus

$250,000

Cap Hit

$9,000,000

Voided

2014

Base Salary

$10,500,000

Signing Bonus

$2,000,000

Miscellaneous Bonus

$250,000

Cap Hit

$12,750,000

2015

Base Salary

$9,750,000

Signing Bonus

$2,000,000

Miscellaneous Bonus

$250,000

Cap Hit

$12,000,000

2016

Base Salary

$8,250,000

Signing Bonus

$2,000,000

Miscellaneous Bonus

$250,000

Cap Hit

$10,500,000

Those numbers really escalated. There's no way the Eagles were going to pay DeSean that kind of money, for so many reasons. I'm sure when the Eagles handed DeSean a contract that would pay him 34 million over the last three years that the hope was that DeSean would mature with a big contract. That didn't appear to be the case. Not to mention that with all the other weapons they have under affordable contracts and with the 2012 draft class needing second contracts soon. There was no chance that the DeSean who signed that five year deal would see the end of that contract unless his play developed even further.

If I had looked at the numbers earlier I wouldn't have been nearly as surprised by the Eagles being willing to cut DeSean outright. No team was going to trade for him with that massively back loaded contract, DeSean wasn't going to renegotiate, and such is the NFL. The only money the Eagles owe DeSean is the six million from the three remaining years of his prorated signing bonus which they're taking the entire hit this year so as to be completely free of his contract. DeSean's average salary per year over the last three years of his deal would have put him behind only Calvin Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Percy Harvin and Mike Wallace (what a bad contract.) I was a big fan of DeSean Jackson, but I'm not paying him that kind of money when his production (starting with targets/usage rate) was so inconsistent. DeSean's career best 126 targets placed him tied for 23rd in WR Targets in 2013. So while that does make DeSean's big play potential impressive, it's hard to justify paying a player like that top five wide out money when the usage is more that of an excellent number two WR. Look at the targets for Larry Fitzgerald, Calvin Johnson, Mike Wallace, Percy Harvin, Brandon Marshall and other number one wide receivers during their careers. DeSean never took the next step in terms of being the true number one receiver that he was being paid to be. Regardless of drama, off field issues, not meshing with Chip Kelly and all the other reasons that have been floated around for moving on from DeSean, the money alone was a significant factor that can't be overstated. The Eagles were paying for 1.5 RedSkin DeSean's, and the Redskins may have (probably) overpaid. You don't want to be in the business of over paying players because you're scared you can't replace them. That's how agents leverage your team into terrible contracts down the road.

One Reason Why DeSean Is Replaceable

The one argument that I'm not buying when it comes to DeSean is the "how can you expect a rookie to match his production, especially on a team with Super Bowl aspirations?" argument. DeSean produced as a rookie. He had 121 targets his rookie year for 60 catches 912 yards 2 touchdowns 17 rushes for 96 yards a touchdown, 50 punt returns for 440 yards and another touchdown. Speaking of the unforgettable DeSean moments and producing as a rookie, that bobbled catch over DRC in the NFCCG was so great.

With this being one of the best WR classes ever, or at least in recent memory, it's not unreasonable to expect a rookie to produce similar numbers if taken in the first two or three rounds and afforded that level of usage. Good teams have to be able to trust their ability to see trends in the future of football and to evaluate talent. While not every rookie has DeSean's ability to stretch the field there are certainly players with as much, or more overall potential than DeSean in this draft. DeSean is 27 years old and while he is in the prime of his career he relies almost exclusively on his speed to get open. DeSean does not have great size, doesn't run the elite routes, isn't the most physical receiver, and he doesn't always high point the ball or attempt to make catches through contact. DeSean is an excellent receiver and he's certainly not one dimensional, but he is a limited player who only has one truly special quality to his game. That special quality is one that can go quickly (See Asomugha, Nnamdi) it is fair to wonder how long DeSean will have his beyond elite speed. Who would you rather have just in pure football terms, DeSean Jackson, or Brandon Marshall? They had similar contracts. Me personally it's not even close, it's Marshall.

"There's speed and then there's DeSean Jackson speed"

While this might be true, there are plenty of ways to stretch the field and a defense. Chip Kelly emphasizes forcing the defense to cover as much of the field as possible, both vertically and horizontally. This requires fast players, but not DeSean Jackson fast players. Sproles can certainly stretch the defense in both aspects, but more so horizontally, not to mention Zach Ertz. While you might be laughing that I'm comparing Zach Ertz's ability to stretch a defense to DeSean Jackson's ability, it's not quite as simple as 40 times. DeSean Jackson goes against corners and they often times have safety help 20 yards deep over the top. Zach Ertz has the luxury of being a unique athlete and a precise route runner at a position that gets matched up on linebackers and safeties. So while Ertz won't win any foot races against DeSean, he certainly has the ability to stretch a defense vertically and he sees far less attention than DeSean because of his position and skills. It's not the same effect DeSean had on defenses, DeSean has rare speed, but Ertz is still an effective way to affect a defense. In the NFL you have to expect players to be able to win one on one matchups. Jeremy Maclin essentially said as much to reporters this offseason

"In the NFL, guys don't get double-teamed in this league," Maclin said. "There's one guy that gets double-teamed and that's Calvin Johnson at the goal line. Guys don't get double-teamed in this league. If you weren't out there and you weren't able to make plays, you wouldn't be out there. To have him on the field and able to make plays is a plus for the offense, but at the same time, anybody that's out there making plays is capable of doing so."

While DeSean's speed and ability are rare they're certainly not unique. What DeSean does to a defense can be replicated by multiple players with specific rolls and skill sets. The Saints employed Robert Meachem in very similar fashion to DeSean Jackson. He's used as the guy to keep the safeties lined up deep so they're worried about the deep ball. That was his roll in the offense. While his numbers might not be DeSean's numbers it illustrates the further point that DeSean's production doesn't have to be replaced by one player, but by multiple players that can excel at their specific rolls for less money and hopefully more total production. Darren Sproles can do a lot of what DeSean can do on underneath routes, but with surer hands and better route running skills. Adding a more situational deep threat makes sense in replacing DeSean, but DeSean doesn't have to be replaced by a DeSean clone. Adding a smaller player doesn't seem to mesh with what little the Eagles have actually told us about their plans.

Size Absolutely Matters

The Eagles had been reported to have interest in Tavon Austin last offseason and by all accounts Chip Kelly likes Brandin Cooks the WR from Oregon State, but I wouldn't be so sure Cooks is the primary target. His talent is such that you don't overlook him just because he isn't 6'2 210, but it's certainly a factor in grading him. The same way you don't just get rid of DeSean just because he's 5'8, you don't overlook talent like Cooks purely based on height. Ideally you're adding players to the position to help make it bigger while also adding a vertical threat to take the top off the defense, but the draft is rarely ideal. The Eagles didn't get rid of DeSean because he was 5'8, Chip Kelly has proven his offenses can succeed with smaller fast players like DeSean. While the team may focus on size while bringing in new players they didn't cut DeSean because he was small. It may be a case of addition by subtraction though, you don't want to have to cut DeSean, but because you have to there's an opportunity to get bigger and more physical at the position.

We still don't know a lot about what exactly Chip Kelly wants, but he at least seems to have a definitive plan. It's interesting to look at how he's handled free agency the two years he's been through it. The Eagles haven't added the highest priced free agents or the most talented, but they've added versatile players that fit the criteria and measurables they're looking for without breaking the bank.

"Do they fit? Do they have the characteristics we're looking for to build our team?" said Roseman. "In general, if you go out and sign a big money free agent and when you look at your draft board those are the guys maybe from a size, speed, length perspective at any position that you're trying to stay away from. So now you're kind of devoting all these resources when you're trying to build your team a different way."

It's also worth noting that if the Eagles want bigger cornerbacks on the outside that it's at least plausible that they'd prefer bigger wide receivers on the outside. Especially given the size of the next few receiver draft classes. Chip Kelly has proven he can succeed with smaller playmakers, but he's also shown he adapts his style to what he has to work with. That doesn't mean he doesn't value size in his playmakers, it could simply mean he thought he could win without the perfect fits at wide receiver.

Lets look at what Chip Kelly said last offseason.

"If you constantly take the overachiever at every position, you're going to be too small," Kelly explained. "If you take the short defensive tackle backed up by the short middle linebacker backed up by the short safety, then all of a sudden you're going to get run over."

It seems reasonable that for a man this logical, Chip Kelly thinks similarly about the offensive side of the ball. "But The Eagles traded for Darren Sproles." Exactly, they already acquired a short player who helps fill the void DeSean leaves on the underneath routes, they're probably not going to continue to add short offensive players unless they see good value. If you have a short running back running behind a short wide receiver all of a sudden the Stanford Cardinal are blowing your season up, again. Chip Kelly knows this, if him signing players that have beaten his teams isn't evidence of his ability to learn and adapt, then I don't know what is. I think size on the boundary matters in this scheme more than others; football at the end of the day still involves physically dominating your opponent. While offensive lines can dominate the middle of the field, Chip Kelly's emphasis on WRs needing to block and the heavy use of outside zone concepts and screens leads me to believe the Eagles want size at the position in their ideal model. Again, you don't overlook Brandin Cooks because he's 5'9, but everything the Eagles have done since hiring Chip Kelly indicates that his lack of size will hurt his grade some on the Eagles draft board. So in order for Cooks to be good value I can't imagine the Eagles selecting him before the third round. Given Cooks talent I can't imagine him being there. This is all conjecturing though, what do I know? The Eagles haven't given us much to work with, so we have to read between the lines and attempt to connect using logic to try and understand what they might be thinking over at the NovaCare Complex.

The Trend Of Wide Receivers and the NFL

There's one further point that supports both money and size being a reason to move on from DeSean, and that's the trend of wide receivers in the NFL.

Colin Cowherd said something on his radio show pre free agency I found really interesting. He was discussing his book on football and he got to the wide receiver position. Mind you I'm paraphrasing, but he claimed that in today's NFL, it's better to have three pretty good wide receivers than one super elite level wide out. His argument was that the athletes at a younger age have shifted from playing RB and other positions to playing the glamour position of WR, and that the current and future depth of the position doesn't justify paying a WR not named Calvin Johnson anywhere close to Calvin Johnson money. The way teams have spent on WRs this free agency seems to support this claim. While I don't take this as the gospel on football I do agree. As you look deeper into the future of the WR position in the NFL, the evidence is there and not just in this year's draft class, but over a six draft window.

2011 NFL Draft WR's

Highlighted By

AJ Green and Julio Jones, includes Randall Cobb, Torrey Smith and Cecil Shorts.

2012 NFL Draft WR's

Highlighted By

Justin Blackmon, Alshon Jeffery, Kendall Wright, Michael Floyd, Marvin Jones

2013 NFL Draft WR's

Highlighted By

Tavon Austin, DeAndre Hopkins, Keenan Allen, Cordarrelle Patterson, Justin Hunter, Robert Woods, Marquise Goodwin

2014 NFL Draft WR Prospects

Highlighted By

Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans, Odell Beckham Jr, Brandin Cooks, Kelvin Benjamin, Allen Robinson, Davante Adams, Jordan Matthews, Paul Richardson, Donte Moncreif, Jarvis Landry, Josh Huff, Martavis Bryant,

This class is certainly deep, but the previous three classes have been pretty deep too. It's definitely worth clicking through and exploring. Let's look at the next couple potential classes as well; even though these projections never stay true, we can get a decent feel for the overall depth of the next two potential classes.

2015 Potential NFL WR Prospects:

Highlighted Seniors

Rashaad Green FLAST, Ty Montgomery STAN, Christian Jones ALA, Antwan Goodley Baylor, Tyler Lockett KState, DaVante Parker LOU.

Underclassman for 2015 or 2016:

Highlighted by

Jaelen Strong ASU, Amari Cooper ALA, Dorial Green-Beckham MIZZ, Nelson Agholor USC, Deonte Greenberry HOU, Bralon Addison ORE, DaVaris Daniels ND

2017 Prospects

Highlighted by

Laquon Treadwell Ole MiSS, MarQuez North TENN, Tyler Boyd PITT, Corey Robinson ND, Stacy Coley MIA, Mike Williams CLEM, Darreus Rogers Southern Cal

There are two things I' noticed when taking a look at these six classes. One, there's lots of depth in all of them, particularly this year and potentially the next two years. Secondly, there's size in these classes, by 2017 6'0 looks short. If you look at the cornerback classes coming up, they're getting bigger too. The outside of the field is starting to be dominated more so by bigger players. There are plenty of opportunities to add big talented wide receivers to the roster over the next couple of years. It wouldn't surprise me at all if the heavy perceived interest in Cooks is a smoke screen because the team falls in love with a guy like Davante Adams.

Wide Receivers are starting to become devalued in the NFL just like running backs, but for a completely different reason. There's an oversaturation of talent at the WR position. I think the trend could eventually shift to not paying a wide receiver ten million dollars a year unless he's a Calvin Johnson level player. If elite talent at the position isn't as rare as it used to be, then there's no reason to spend top dollar for it. Smart teams will spend their big money at positions where elite talent is truly rare. The Saints are about to PAY Jimmy Graham, they just PAID Jarrius Byrd, whether you agree with them or not, it's clear that they're valuing allocating their resources towards positions devoid of talent currently. The Saints have been successful for years devaluing the wide receiver position and stretching the field to its extremes through positional mismatches.

NEXT DAWKINS

While it may reek of a writer trying to create a catchy headline it does help my case. It's a simple supply and demand concept. If the Quarterbacks are driving the game of football, they're going to need receivers. In turn that leads to a demand for the best athletes to develop at defensive back positions. Talent tends to do one of two things, go to the most glamorous positions where the best players and competition are, or to go where the opportunity to play is. As the saying goes, the NFL is a copycat league, but that trickle down effect happens in all levels of football. As for "Next Dawkins" they're already in the league in Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Eric Berry, Jarius Byrd, so on and so forth. Their presence in the NFL can partially be attributed to Brian Dawkins. The reason I say Brian Dawkins, Troy Palamalu and Ed Reed are all Hall of Famers is because they redefined their position. Football has undergone drastic change in the past fifteen years. The evolution of the passing game forced safeties to change their playing style. There isn't a real differentiation between strong safeties and free safeties anymore. The position requires players to be excellent in every facet of defensive football in order to be dominant. Safeties must be strong run defenders, above average blitzes, capable in single high coverage, cover 2, and man-to-man coverage with running backs tight ends and the occasional wide receiver. Those three safeties are the first safeties that adapted to the explosive "new" passing offenses. Brian Dawkins helped write the blueprint on how to play safety in the new NFL. Will the Legion of Boom inspire a similar, growth in modern NFL defense? My guess is yes, great players inspire future generations of great players. Pioneers pioneer so that generations after them can don't have to start where they started. If a golden age of wide receiver play is on the horizon then there will be plenty of athletes who flip over to the defensive side of the ball for opportunities to play against those receivers. Could you imagine Andre Johnson if he'd developed as a safety? My guess is he would have been a damn good football player still.

The NFL is a cyclical league; trends come and go based off of the talent pool available. For me the most frustrating thing about Andy Reid was listening to him always say "we need to do a better job putting our players in positions to make plays," then watching him do the complete opposite. Good coaches adjust what they do based off the talent they have available and the schemes they expect to face. In the NFL, every team has talent; talent doesn't win the day as much as it does in the NBA. Putting that talent in favorable situations is the difference between 4-12 and 10-6. I'd say it's a safe bet NFL organizations have noticed the trends in talent in their sport. The NFL is about constantly looking ahead and sacrificing short-term success for even greater long-term success. If you a'int first, you're last. While cutting DeSean certainly doesn't make the team better on the field today, there is the possibility that it makes them much better moving forward.

Must Reads

What Do the Eagles Have Left at Wide Receiver?

Eagles Fans Split on DeSean's Release

The 2011 free agent signings were a disaster, but the way those signings came about shows the real genius of Howie Roseman. Howie saw an opportunity to capitalize on a bizarre situation with the uncapped year leading up to the lockout and the extra large free agent class of 2011. I wish I could find the specific quote, but I remember Howie talking about how they saw this opportunity years in advance and prepared for it. So again, to the point Colin Cowherd made: If he can notice that trend in wide receivers, and I can easily confirm it by looking at recent and future drafts, It's safe to assume the NFL noticed too. Howie structures his deals in a way that the team can always get out after a few years with an acceptable loss. That's the thing about actually running an NFL franchise; it involves the balance of present and future. While the thought of going all in for a potential Super Bowl run in 2014 sounds exciting, the Eagles were still a 4-12 football team in 2012, there's plenty of work left to do. The long term success of the team, and by success I mean winning the division for years to come to have a seat at the Playoff tournament, is more vital than anything. Chip Kelly is trying to implement a system. Whether or not you find Chip Kelly arrogant, he's going to do things his way, because if he fails, he's out of a job either way. I would do the same thing if given that kind of power, you would too.

A system is greater than the players within it, that's what makes it a system. Sure, you need great players to be great fits in order to make a system great, (John Madden Voice) but football is a team sport, the system reigns supreme. You want a team to be greater than the sum of its parts. Look at the Seattle Seahawks, their defensive system is much greater than its parts. Earl Thomas is a talent that fits the system perfectly and allows it to be great, but the system has proven it can succeed while losing players and having less than ideal traditional pieces. The cornerbacks opposite Sherman have essentially been interchangeable, Browner, Thurmond, and Maxwell all played at a high level on the outside.

(On a DeSean note, Defensive Principle One in Pete Carroll's scheme "Eliminate the Big Play," specifically the deep middle of the field and the explosive pass. DeSean's talents can be seriously negated by schemes simply not allowing him to beat them deep. When teams scheme to take DeSean away, they're typically successful. The Eagles played mostly two deep safeties last year; big plays can be limited by well-executed coverages.)

The Seahawks Cover 3 allows cornerbacks to essentially play press man coverage while only worrying about the vertical part of the route tree. I can't stress just how huge of a luxury for a cornerback that is. While Richard Sherman is an extremely talented football player, the Seahawks' scheme no doubt makes him better that just his individual talents. Sherman has ideal physicality, size and length, speed, and play-making skills for an NFL cornerback. Of course he's going to succeed going up against receivers when his role in Pete Carroll's defensive machine is eliminating the vertical part of the route tree on his side. In the same way I discussed that you can stretch a defense with different players with specific roles you can also limit an offense with schemes like this. Earl Thomas is so good at covering the deep middle of the field and using his speed to close underneath that it allows the Seahawks to play their corners in Cover 3, a corner friendly coverage.

The System

Todd Herremans was quoted at his charity Hoops for Hope event saying,

"I think DeSean's important to this team. On the other hand, I don't think there's one person that's irreplaceable. I'd like to think that I'm irreplaceable, but I know that's not the fact. The fact is what they're trying to do here is create a system to where you don't have to rely on just the players and who they are. You can just plug guys into the system and have success from there for many years to come."

"I think for people to actually get that, we would have to lose one of those special players and then still have success," Herremans said. "I don't think people would really understand that until it happens. But I know that as a coach that's kind of the system that you want. That's the equation that you want. You want to be able to just plug guys into your system and not worry about your players wanting to stay, wanting to leave, wanting more money or anything like that. That gives you a little bit of flexibility if your system is the reason for winning."

While this might sound like a raw deal for the players, being replaceable is the ultimate dream for a franchise. I want to root for a team where "next man up" really is a thing. Where if a player wants a new contract after two years of his deal, the team can simply replace him and pay their key cogs that help maximize the systems effectiveness. (Yes, I understand DeSean skillset wise could have been a fairly key cog.)

The Eagles believe that Chip Kelly's QB friendly system of packaged plays that put the defense in conflict, and allow for multiple options for playmakers to make plays in space on any given play, is the path to a Super Bowl. Why wouldn't they believe that DeSean is a replaceable commodity? The more great wide receivers there are the more great cornerbacks there are going to be to cover them. The Richard Shermans and Patrick Petersons of the world exist because of the Larry Fitzgeralds and Calvin Johnsons of the world. Football is so predictable in the sense that it's reactionary. So if the Seahawks can interchange their outside players seamlessly and not miss a beat, who's to say the Eagles can't as well?

I offer you this hypothetical. The Seahawks need to resign QB Russell Wilson, S Earl Thomas, LT Russell Okung, and CB Richard Sherman. Let's say they can only resign three out of the four players for the hypotheticals sake. They're obviously resigning their QB and in turn, they'd be smart to protect his blindside by resigning their young stud left tackle. Earl Thomas is the most important cog to their defense so he gets resigned. The odd man out is the extremely talented player, at a position the Seahawks have shown they can cultivate and replace. It's not the same situation, but it illustrates the same idea as DeSean and the Eagles. He's not a player worth investing huge money in at a position you feel you can create production in your system with lesser talents like Riley Cooper or Byron Maxwell.

Final Thoughts

This started out as a DeSean discussion, but it evolved into so much more; an Eagles discussion and a football discussion. Those are the two things that really matter, The Philadelphia Eagles and the sport of football. If I care enough to write this, and you all care enough read this, then how can you be upset with the decision to move on from DeSean? If Chip cares so much about players buying into his program fully that he's willing to cut DeSean for not being completely invested, then isn't he the right coach for Philadelphia? I'm so grateful for everything DeSean did for the Eagles, but he get's a pass for dogging it an entire season and not being the best he could be like no other athlete in Philly sports. All stemming from the fear Eagles fans have of terrible wide receiver play. So if he doesn't care enough for Chip, then that should be good enough for us. It's hard to disagree with the Eagles decision either; you've seen a pretty unified front from the players. DeSean may have done something that definitely warranted his release that we find out about, but I doubt it's anything more than the "straw that broke the camel's back," and the belief that this system can work without DeSean.

The biggest reason we should "Trust In Chip" is because we're not being given another choice. The fact that Chip Kelly clowned Jeff McLane (remember this?) for this article says all we need to know about how Chip Kelly and the Eagles are going to handle the media under his watch. Isn't it glorious?

"He's a priority at receiver, before Maclin, behind Cooper. Or is it Cooper before Maclin or Maclin before Cooper? So I'll check what you write and tell you how we feel."

Chip Kelly and the Eagles are well aware of everything that is going on and what is being said about their team. Here's a horribly kept secret, they don't give a shit how we feel about what they're doing. They believe in what they're doing and that's all that matters. Me personally, I love the way the Eagles treat the media. Why on earth would you want to disclose any more information than is absolutely vital to anyone, ever? It's a good general rule of thumb in life, but especially if you run an NFL program as scientific and as immersive as the Chippah. Everybody is on a need to know basis, and the fan base doesn't need to know anything other than Chip has a plan, Howie thinks he can help bring that plan to fruition and that Jeffery Lurie is willing to pay these two men and others disgusting amounts of money to execute said plan. These guys are much smarter than us hopefully, I mean you would think they would be, so relax. My best advice to you upset Eagles fans is this, hang on tight and enjoy the ride. Calling the Eagles cowards for not addressing this is an exercise in futility. (says the guy that just wrote this)

Also a special thanks @Southern_Philly AKA BGN's own Dave Mangels. Couldn't have found some of the material I needed without him archiving some great tweets in his favorites.

Fly Eagles Fly

Follow me on Twitter @BradKing5

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