From the moment DeSean Jackson stepped on the practice field for the first time with the Raiders on Wednesday, one thought kept occurring to quarterback Derek Carr.
“He’s really fast,” Carr said. “He can still run.”
Therein lies the reason Jackson is a member of the Raiders, fortuitously so given the events over the past nine days.
After a month’s worth of misfortune that removed coach Jon Gruden and explosive young wide receiver Henry Ruggs, the Raiders were the beneficiaries this week of good fortune in the immediate availability of Jackson, a veteran wide receiver who can still force defenses to honor his speed.
“That definitely showed up today,” Carr said.
The quick courtship that ensued between Jackson and the Raiders after he cleared waivers upon being released by the Los Angeles Rams culminated in a contract agreement and Jackson’s noticeable presence on the practice field Wednesday.
Barring a major surprise, he will suit up against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday at Allegiant Stadium. The Raiders hope he will give the offense with the speed element that was sorely missing against the New York Giants.
Last Sunday represented the first game the Raiders played without Ruggs, who was blossoming into the deep-ball threat they envisioned upon selecting him with the 12th pick in the 2020 draft. His absence left a void in the Raiders’ attack, which looked slower, less explosive and more confined as a result.
Onto the scene comes Jackson, who, even at 34 years old, can still fly. In that way, he fills a huge need after the loss of Ruggs.
“Just being that spark I’ve been able to be my whole career,” Jackson said. “That deep threat, vertical threat. Having a defense have to account for that.”
He wants to do it by simply fitting in rather than forcing his way in.
“I’m not asking to get the ball a hundred times,” Jackson said. “I’m not asking to play 100 percent. Whatever that role is that fits, just let me play it to the best of my ability.”
That he gets to do it just a hop, skip and jump from his home base of Los Angeles and for the team he admired as a kid growing up in L.A. and then a college star at Cal-Berkeley makes it feel so seamless and meant to be.
In fact, the first NFL game Jackson attended was to watch his older brother Byron, a wide receiver and member of the Kansas City Chiefs, play the Raiders. He was about 7 years old at the time, the first time he thought about becoming an NFL player himself.
“Looking back now at how time changes and turns, putting on the black and silver, it’s definitely special,” Jackson said.
The pairing of Jackson and the Raiders is mutually beneficial. Obviously, the Raiders needed a replacement for Ruggs over the last nine games of the season. Jackson is almost the perfect player to do that.
He’s a veteran who has played in multiple offenses and seen every type of defense. While he won’t have a complete command of the offense by Sunday, he’s savvy enough to master whatever packages and roles the Raiders carve out for him this week.
“With a guy like that, with his understanding of coverages, I don’t have to go out there and teach him anything,” Carr said. “He already knows what I’m thinking. He’s one of, if not the best deep threats that’s ever played. He knows where to be and the coverages and how to set them up.”
From Jackson’s perspective, the Raiders offer playing time and a chance to compete for the playoffs. The latter was at the top of his list in plotting his next stop, followed closely by location and weather.
“I didn’t want to go nowhere cold,” he said.
The fairly mild Las Vegas fall and winters coupled with domed Allegiant Stadium take care of the weather part. The Raiders’ 5-3 record, tied for first in the AFC West, means a chance for a playoff run.
“For me the accolades, the stats, all that stuff is there,” Jackson said. “I really want to win, chase a Super Bowl. So I think it’s a great fit here.”
Contact Vincent Bonsignore at email@example.com. Follow @VinnyBonsignore on Twitter.
Who: Chiefs at Raiders
When: 5:20 p.m. Sunday
Where: Allegiant Stadium
Radio: KRLV-AM (920), KOMP-FM (92.3)
Line: Chiefs -2½; total 52½