DeSean Jackson's Impact On Raiders' Offense Being Felt

Photo: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The Las Vegas Raiders had been slipping down the standings, in need of a catalyst to turn their season around before it was too late. Enter DeSean Jackson.

After a very hot start to the season, the Raiders suddenly hit a wall of off-the-field issues and tragedy. First there was the resignation of head coach Jon Gruden, then the release of both 2020 first-rounders—wide receiver Henry Ruggs III and cornerback Damon Arnette—in a matter of weeks.

Their 5-2 start slipped to 5-3, then 5-4, then 5-5. While the Raiders had struggled with preventing opponents’ scores all season, their offense had noticeably taken a step back. Through the first eight weeks of the season, Las Vegas’ scoring offense was top 10 in the NFL, averaging 25.7 points per game. They were second in the league in passing yards per game (307.9), as a surging Derek Carr was building chemistry with Ruggs III, their deep threat who seemed to be on the verge of a huge breakout season.

Then the team released Ruggs III after he was charged with a DUI after a horrific, deadly drunk driving incident in Las Vegas. The circumstances around the tragedy hit the team with strong emotional aftereffects, and Ruggs III’s departure left the Raiders without their deep-threat, No. 1 receiver.

After dropping three straight games to the New York Giants, Kansas City Chiefs, and Cincinnati Bengals, the Raiders were suddenly in the bottom half of the NFL in scoring offense. Over that same span, they weren’t even in the top 10 in passing yardage.

Luckily for the Raiders, one of the greatest deep-threat receivers of all time had just been granted his release from the Los Angeles Rams. Less than one week later, Jackson signed with Las Vegas.

Jackson has stopped with a few different teams around the NFL since his first stint with the Philadelphia Eagles ended after the 2013 season. His volume of receptions has decreased as he’s aged and he had some trouble with injury in his second stint with Philadelphia. But he’s consistently remained a deep threat throughout his career, and that’s exactly what was on the mind of the Raiders’ front office when they brought Jackson to the team a month ago.

He had limited action in his first two games in Las Vegas—just one target and one catch for 38 yards over two weeks—before breaking out in the Raiders’ Thanksgiving matchup in Dallas. After putting in work to learn the system and build chemistry with his quarterback in practice, Jackson lit up the Cowboys, just like old times. He finished with 102 yards and a touchdown on just three catches, pulling his average yardage down to “just” 35 yards per catch in his three games with Vegas.

Having a deep threat once again has done wonders for the Raiders and their offense. Carr’s 373 passing yards were his best since Week 3, and Hunter Renfrow—from his position in the slot—was able to take advantage of the Cowboys’ focus on defending Jackson. Renfrow put up career-high numbers with his eight receptions and 134 yards. Most importantly, Las Vegas got back in the win column to stop their losing streak at three games.

With Jackson finally integrated into the Las Vegas offense, they looked more like the team that had begun the season. They were finally able to air the ball out when they had opportunities to do so and it led to a huge win.

The Raiders (6-5) are now tied for second place in the AFC West with every team that isn’t the Kansas City Chiefs, and they’re just on the outside of the playoff bubble. Jackson’s breakout performance in Dallas showed how much of an influence he can have, with or without the ball. He’s the deep threat the Raiders have needed since Ruggs III’s departure and his presence alone has kept some of his fellow receivers open too. With three divisional games remaining in the home stretch, Las Vegas hopes he’ll continue to have that impact in the season’s final six weeks.

Written By:

Jack McKessy

Staff Writer

Jack McKessy is a recent graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism who grew up in Washington, D.C. As a student, he covered Northwestern’s football, women’s soccer, women’s basketball, and baseball teams. Previously, he was in charge of social media and contributed to both written and multimedia content creation for La Vida Baseball in Chicago. He has also assisted in the production of promotional content for the Big Ten Network. Jack initially joined the TDN team as an intern during the 2020 season. Now, he writes columns—primarily analysis of the New York Giants—and helps run TDN's YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter accounts.