In the early portion of his career, DeSean Jackson had the pleasure and enjoyed tremendous success catching passes from one the most dynamic dual-threat quarterbacks in NFL history. In his first stint with the Philadelphia Eagles, he played with Michael Vick from 2009-2013.
Jackson earned two of his three career Pro Bowl nods during that span as the two forged a strong connection as lethal as any at the time. Now that he is on his sixth team and in his 15th season, the Baltimore Ravens‘ newest addition has the opportunity to play with the most electrifying playmaker regardless of position in Lamar Jackson who reminds him a lot of Vick.
“I’ve been keeping my eye on Lamar for a little while now,” DeSean Jackson told reporters after his first practice on October 19, 2022. “I see a lot of characteristics similar to Michael Vick. He beat some of his records so obviously, he’s the new era of Michael Vick. Being able to play with Michael Vick, being able to come and play with Lamar, it’s a blessing for me. I’m very excited about that.”
The two are already getting a jumpstart on building better chemistry as they both stayed after practice on Wednesday to talk about routes and get to know each other better.
Jackson is no stranger to learning new playbooks, sometimes even in a short span of time. He spent time with and made impactful plays on two different teams last year and would express a desire to want to get on the same page with his new signal-caller as quickly as possible.
“In practice, we had a couple of routes I talked to him about and kind of envisioned what I see,” Jackson said. “I had a great feeling of how he looks at it. We can talk about things and when we get out there Sunday, if it’s this Sunday, we’ll be able to be on the same page.”
He didn’t rule out the possibility of suiting up and seeing his first game action for the Ravens this upcoming Sunday when the Cleveland Browns come to town for an AFC showdown. However, while he has stayed in shape waiting for the opportunity to continue his playing career, the 35-year-old did allude that there is a difference between being in “football shape”.
“Football shape is a little different,” DeSean said. “(But) I’ve been doing this a long time. Everything I’ve been doing as got me in great shape. Being a veteran guy, being able to play for a few teams in my career, it’s not my first rodeo.”
First Impressions of New Addition
The Jackson-to-Jackson connection has the potential to be lethal in short order because according to the former unanimous league MVP, the elder Jackson still looks like the D-Jax of old with plenty of juice left in the tank.
“He looked like the DeSean when he first got to the league, got introduced to the league,” Lamar Jackson said in a press conference on October 19, 2022. “[He’s] still floating around, running great routes. I’m excited.”
DeSean wasn’t the only veteran wide receiver the team brought in for a workout on Tuesday. They also worked out former eighth overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, Tavon Austin, and while head coach John Harbaugh liked what he saw from both players, he was especially impressed with Jackson.
“He was fast. He looks [like] he’s in great shape, fluid, healthy,” Harbaugh said in a press conference on October 19, 2022. “It was a very good tryout.”
His first day of practice went well as he continued to look like he is in good physical condition. If Jackson can get up to speed with the playbook and his rapport with his new quarterback quickly, he could be making meaningful contributions and opening up even more of the field underneath for his fellow pass catchers to operate in thanks to the deep threat he presents.
“I feel like guys are going to have to play him off because he’s still flying,” Lamar said. “Even though it’s Year 15 for him, it looks like Year One. He’s going to bring a lot to the table for us; we’re just going to have to see if he gets out there.”
Key Starters Return to Practice
As exciting as the addition of Jackson is this week, the more encouraging development at the wide receiver position is the return of top wideout Rashod Bateman to practice. The second-year pro who still leads the position group and ranks second on the team with 243 receiving yards despite missing the last two games with a foot sprain practiced for the first time in three weeks on Wednesday, October 19, 2022, albeit as a limited participant.
“Oh, man, it’ll do a lot for us [to get him back],” Lamar Jackson said. “That’s our No. 1 guy. He runs great routes; he’s a fast receiver. He’s our top guy, so we definitely need him back out there, but he [should] just take his time. When he comes back, I feel like we’re going to need him at the perfect time.”
The Ravens’ passing attack has struggled to find consistency and create explosive plays during Bateman’s absence which is likely what prompted the addition of DeSean Jackson. The 2021 first-round pick was averaging 22.1 yards per reception before he got hurt but thankfully even well into his mid-30s, Jackson has shown he can still be a dangerous vertical threat.
Another key starter that made his long-awaited return to practice on Wednesday was veteran outside linebacker Justin Houston who has missed the last three games with a groin injury he suffered in Week 3. Like Bateman, he was off to a strong start to the season with two sacks in not even three full games.
The four-time Pro Bowler was also a limited participant in his first practice in four weeks. His return to the starting lineup would help alleviate some of the workload on his fellow veteran edge defender Jason Pierre-Paul who has looked impressive over the past few weeks.
One under-the-radar return of an injured player to practice is that of running back Justice Hill. The fourth-year pro has missed the past two games with a hamstring injury and unlike Bateman and Houston, he was a full participant in Wednesday’s practice after being limited in two practices last week. While the Ravens’ rushing attack has still looked good in his absence and is coming off its most productive outing to date, Hill was the unit’s most explosive and consistent player at the position before he got hurt.