DeSean Jackson delivering to Matthew Stafford’s need for speed

Mandatory Credit: John McCoy-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: John McCoy-USA TODAY Sports /

The LA Rams learned when the team tried to infuse the speed of wide receiver Brandin Cooks into the 2018 offense, that it takes more than a speedy receiver to crank up the volume on the offense. It takes two to tango. While Cooks put up 1,787 yards and seven touchdowns for the LA Rams in two seasons, the fact is that he caught just 64.6 percent of his passes. Why couldn’t the Rams’ speedy wide receiver do better?

Well, hitting the deep pass is notoriously difficult, to begin with. It takes a special type of arm, a lot of time to develop, a receiver who can hit his mark on schedule, and a quarterback who can look away from the target so as not to broadcast to each and every defensive back in the stadium: “You see that wide receiver streaking deep who my eyes have fixated on? I’m going to throw to him now”.

Unfortunately, that setup did not seem to exist for the LA Rams in 2018 or 2019. In the end, the team traded a highly compensated Brandin Cooks in 2020, who then went on to put up over 1000 yards for the Houston Texans. It made sense because the Houston Texans had that type of setup to allow Cooks to flourish.

Okay, so that didn’t work out. But the Rams organization remains determined to make that work. So this time, they infused speed into the receiving corps with familiar veteran DeSean Jackson and loaded up at quarterback with strong-armed quarterback Matthew Stafford.

Los Angeles Rams
Los Angeles Rams /

Los Angeles Rams

Okay, so what makes this any different than last time? Several things, actually.

For starters, DeSean Jackson will likely not be a fixture on the football field. His role will be a bit more specific compared to that of Brandin Cooks, and will likely force specific types of coverages that favor the LA Rams. After all, Rams head coach Sean McVay is intimately familiar with Jackson, and will undoubtedly use him like a seasoning or condiment rather than as an entree.

Stafford is far more versatile in the pocket and will have a greater role aiding his receivers by moving defensive backs with his eyes. For a receiver like Jackson, that can be deadly effective. If Stafford looks deep, but Jackson runs a crossing route, The safety could wind up taking himself completely out of the play. And the opposite is true, as Stafford could peer into the middle of the defense but still throw the ball 70 yards down the sideline to a streaking DeSean Jackson for the score.

It gets even crazier when you factor in other receivers, tight ends, and the double psych when Stafford throws it exactly in the direction he is looking at.

Will Stafford to Jackson be as proficient as Jared Goff to Cooks? Perhaps. Perhaps better. Perhaps worse. But the introduction of Matthew Stafford to DeSean Jackson restores the element of surprise, of stretching defenses vertically, and of scoring quickly. If nothing else, the LA Rams have given defenses good reason NOT to load up the box with eight players.

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Now they have to make good on that potential and actually pass the ball successfully over 20+ yards downfield. Once they do that, the running lanes should open up nicely as well.