IRVING, Texas –The Eagle has tweeted. But at this point, the Dallas Cowboys prefer to let their actions against Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson do the talking.
After his team got shut out 24-0 at Dallas on Sunday, Philadelphia’s speedy big-play machine was quick to respond on his Twitter page — in so many words that the Eagles would come back to "sting the Cowboys in the backside" Saturday night in the first-round playoff game.
Such salvos aren’t new for the confident Jackson, but for the Eagles back up his bold statement he must make some noise on the field.
In two games against Dallas, Nov. 8 and Jan. 3, the Cowboys limited Jackson to a combined five catches for 76 yards and no touchdowns. And he was limited to only 18 yards on punt returns.
No team has done a better job of containing the Pro Bowler.
One of several players responsible for causing that anemic output is Cowboys cornerback Orlando Scandrick, Jackson’s former high school rival in Southern California. Scandrick knows it will be a challenge to contain Jackson a third time.
"He’s a competitor," Scandrick said. "He’s got an edge to him."
The Cowboys have used a team effort to limit Jackson’s impact. The preparation and communication have been there for all levels of the defense, not just the secondary. The pass rush has limited Donovan McNabb’s time to locate his best deep threat, backing it up with cover men who kept Jackson in front of them.
"They’ve been trying to eliminate the big play, and they’ve been very successful with it," McNabb said.
To keep Jackson from hitting home runs, it’s a two-step process. The first requires a sound coverage scheme where cornerbacks get consistent help over the top. Because the Cowboys have been effective in both rushing McNabb and stopping the Eagles’ running game with just their front seven, it has allowed safeties Ken Hamlin and Gerald Sensabaugh to patrol the deep halves.
The key is everyone maintaining coverage responsibilities yet also being able to close on Jackson—and rookie speedster Jeremy Maclin on the opposite side—while the ball is airborne.
"It’s (about) us being disciplined but still being aggressive," Hamlin said. "We have the corners who are aggressive enough to play those guys."
With a receiver as fast, as quick and as tough as Jackson, the Cowboys can’t afford to lose track of him.
"He has another gear when he gets the ball in his hands," Dallas inside linebacker Keith Brooking said. "He’s a guy you’re conscious of on every play, and what they’re trying to do with him."
Because of how they’ve stopped the long pass, the Cowboys can expect the Eagles to call more plays such as wide receiver screens and reverses to get the ball to Jackson quickly and allow him to accelerate into the open field.
The Eagles say they aren’t frustrated by what Dallas has done to slow Jackson, but the Philly coaches are surely focused on making sure he is a factor in the playoffs.
"They’ve done a great job against him," Eagles coach Andy Reid said. "It’s a matter of me putting him in the right position to make the plays."
This story appears in Jan. 6’s edition of Sporting News Today. If you are not receiving Sporting News Today, the only daily digital sports newspaper, sign up today.
Vinnie Iyer is a staff writer for Sporting News. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.