|Matthew Slater doesn’t want to get burned by the ‘amazing’ DeSean Jackson again||11.23.11 at 5:08 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Matthew Slater knows all too well just how dangerous DeSean Jackson is on a football field with the ball in his hands.
The highlight everyone remembers came in 2010 when he ended a game between the Giants and Eagles at the Meadowlands with an electrifying punt return for a touchdown, a return that began with a bobble and a fumble.
“I think we all saw that play,” Slater said. “The guy has amazing talent and tremendous ability. He’s going to be a challenge for us.”
On the that play, Giants punter Matt Dodge punted the ball with 14 seconds left in the fourth quarter of a 31-31 game. Jackson fumbled the ball at his 35-yard line, retreated back to his 27 then darted up the middle for the “Miracle of the Meadowlands II.”
When Slater played at UCLA, Jackson played at Cal, and the two had many encounters on special teams in their Pac-10 rivalry.
“I’ve been dealing with him since college so I’m seen him at the college level and the pro level and he’s gotten the better of me a couple of times, and our unit so hopefully we can go out there and prepare for him and be ready for him come Sunday,” Slater said.
This year, Jackson has been battling distractions he caused himself in holding out for a new contract and then injuring his foot on Sunday night when he had it stepped on. Jackson did not practice on Wednesday but he was not wearing a boot and was showing no limp, leading to speculation he’ll play Sunday against the Pats.
Jackson, who has been a symbol of Philly’s inconsistent season, was even a healthy scratch during the team’s stunning home loss to the Cardinals on Nov. 13. Still, the Patriots are wary.
“The guy is a very special talent,” Slater said. “He can change the game in one play so we’re very well aware of that. We know we have a lot to do as far as preparation is concerned. We know we have to have a sense of urgency when dealing with a guy like this.”
Is it his speed, shiftiness or vision that impresses the most?
“All of the above, shiftiness, speed, he’s not afraid to field the ball and take chances,” Slater said. “He wants the ball in his hands. He wants to make plays. The speed, that’s just something you can’t coach. Either you have it or you don’t and he has plenty of it.”
In his first collegiate game against Sacramento State in 2005, Jackson scored both an offensive and special teams touchdown, returning a punt 49 yards for a score. In his freshman season, Jackson picked up 38 receptions for 601 yards along with seven touchdowns, earning three 100-yard games as a receiver.
He was considered a leading Heisman candidate entering his junior year in 2007, which would be his last in Berkeley before leaving for the NFL Draft.
Jackson left Cal, holding Pac-10 records for punts returned for a touchdown both in a season (four), and in a career (six). Jackson ranks third all-time at California for receiving yards with 2,423 and receiving touchdowns with 22. He is sixth in receptions (162). Jackson finished with 52 career plays of 20 yards or more, making up 23 percent of his 226 touches.
Jackson left Cal following the 2007 season, declaring for the 2008 NFL Draft, the same year Slater came out and was taken by the Patriots in the fifth round. Jackson was a second-round pick by the Eagles that year.
Slater, meanwhile, said his own special teams’ unit took a lot of pride in Wednesday’s announcement from the NFL that Julian Edelman had been named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week, thanks primarily to Edelman’s 72-yard TD punt return that broke Monday’s game wide open in the third quarter.
“It means a lot to our unit,” Slater said. “It means we’re in it together. It takes 11 guys to return and Julian made some guys miss there himself but it means we’re doing some things right. We’re making steps in the right direction. There’s still lots to improve upon and I’m sure Julian would be the first one to tell you that. He wants to take every one back [for a TD] and that’s what you love about him. It means we’re doing some things positive but we can’t rest on that. We have to continue to improve each week.
“We’ve been close. With a guy like Julian, you have a chance every time the ball’s up there. We felt like we had a chance this past week and fortunately, we were able to take advantage of it.”
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