RSP NFL Lens WR DeSean Jackson Boundary Awareness

RSP NFL Lens WR DeSean Jackson Boundary Awareness

Matt Waldman’s Rookie Scouting Portfolio showcases DeSean Jacksons’ boundary awareness. 

I wish DeSean Jackson was a New Orleans Saint. Sorry Tampa fans but every time I think of Jackson as a Buccaneer, I lament that he’s with the wrong team in the NFC South. Maybe Jameis Winston will get it together, play to his potential, and maximize Jackson’s many talents.

However, I think of Jackson paired with Drew Brees and I see a 1,200-yard, 10-touchdown campaign — even with Michael Thomas and a productive ground game with two excellent runners. Jackson is a stud receiver whose career lacks the pairing with a stud passer.

Get over his frame; Isaac Bruce was a stud receiver and Jackson had the athletic ability, technical skill, positional versatility, and awareness to match what Bruce did with the Rams. It’s too late for Jackson to earn that production, but there’s still enough time to see him one day paired with a mature passer to earn a glimpse of “what could have been.”

Despite his rookie-year foible of dumping the ball before he reached the end zone, Jackson’s game has a heavy dose of awareness in all facets of receiver play, especially boundary awareness.  A catch-all term like “vision” for running backs and “decision-making” for quarterbacks, boundary awareness includes skills that translate to other areas of route running, receiving and ball carrying:

  • Independent coordination of the upper and lower body.
  • Alternating between paired footwork movement and individual footwork movement in succession and in a tight space.
  • Pinpoint, technical, and dynamic movement of a specific body part while maintaining a static position elsewhere.
  • Spatial awareness.

Jackson’s reception at the boundary on this target as complex as a good run between the tackles or a quarterback maneuvering a compressed pocket.

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Note the way at the end of the catch that Jackson taps his right toe inside the boundary after dragging both feet as he extends for the target. Even that toe-tap is more of a drag based on the position of his foot — the intent is for the top of the foot to strike the turf.

Most stand-out college receivers punctuate the turf with toe-taps. Few get both feet inbounds because the college rule only requires one. And even fewer can coordinate multiple moves within this tight of a space at the boundary.

Jackson’s precision is so great that he’s operating in a space that would not be enough for most receivers. Aspiring professionals at the position should be aware that Jackson’s performance is not an accident. Players with an expectation of maneuvering tight space, practice these scenarios so they can perform them.

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