LA Rams trade of DeSean Jackson will reshape NFL playoff picture

(Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)
(Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images) /
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LA Rams Les Snead DeSean Jackson
(Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images) /

Mystery moves

The LA Rams custom-built a roster with an expectation of where the team would need reinforcements through the long 17-game NFL season. There are no data analytics programs for that, there is no template. It’s a SWAG effort, a scientific wild-assed guess, over what and who the Rams may need over the course of the next season.  And in the process, NFL teams often acquire familiar veterans with a known level of play. Then, the team doubles down by drafting for that position.

When the rookie exceeds the talent of the veteran, he gets the lion’s share of playing time. Pretty simple, pretty effective, and virtually dummy-proof.

But in the case of the LA Rams and DeSean Jackson, it was believed that Jackson was the mentor of rookie wide receiver Tutu Atwell, who has yet to make a meaningful impact in the LA Rams roster. So after seven games, the fact that Jackson has played 100 offensive snaps, and been targeted 15 times would alarm any player. Jackson has already turned that paltry bit of offensive activity into eight catches for 221 yards and a touchdown. Had the Rams given him more targets, he could be sitting pretty high in the offense.

When the LA Rams proceeded to defeat the defending Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers rather handily by a score of 34-24, it was DeSean Jackson’s 120 yards and one touchdown on just three catches that became the game’s headliner. Jackson’s blinding speed literally allowed him to run past deep coverage. As much as I love what Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, and Van Jefferson can do on this offense, do they excel as well without a deep threat wide receiver to keep the secondary honest?

I really don’t have the answer to that one. But I do know that the Arizona Cardinals secondary was able to neutralize Rams top receiver, Cooper Kupp, in their first contest. In that game, Kupp caught only five of 13 passes thrown his way for 64 yards and zero touchdowns. It seems to me that this team, should they trade DeSean Jackson, had better have something very special lined up.

DeSean Jackson is very special in the LA Rams offense. He has been exactly what the team sought in a wide receiver. He stretches the defenses. He puts up a ton of yards almost instantly. But most of all, the Rams and the player have a sweet spot in keeping Jackson healthy. The only change would be simply to throw Jackson the ball a bit more frequently.

By my reckoning, even with just those 15 targets, Jackson could have scored five touchdowns and advanced the football nearly 500 yards in receiving yards if throws had found the mark when he was open. That’s what the Rams are willing to trade away. I still don’t get it.