*While the drama is ripe with another reunion looming in Philadelphia, wide receiver DeSean Jackson remains focused on the Redskins' opportunity and strengthening his rapport with Kirk Cousins. *
With the usual pomp and circumstance that comes in this kind of high-stakes division meeting, DeSean Jackson's return to Philadelphia on Saturday night, a marquee storyline, looks differently depending on how you hold it up to the banner light.
From one angle, it seems only fitting that Jackson is preparing to play his former team, the Eagles, for the first time this year with a division championship on the line after completing his first 100-yard performance of the season last Sunday.
Held from another angle, one the most vindictive might find attractive, it seems only fitting that the Redskins, the team that signed Jackson after he was unceremoniously cut two years ago, would have the opportunity to boot the Eagles out of the playoffs with a victory for the second consecutive season.
And from a third, and significantly more personal, angle, at least in front of a public audience, it seems only fitting that Jackson doesn't care to drum up any more bad feelings. This is a team game, and Jackson would rather talk football than re-engage with storylines about vendettas and individual affairs.
"It's just another game," Jackson said on Wednesday. "I'm excited about it, highly anticipate it, but I'm not going to make it more than what it is."
More would be taking a not-so-subtle jab at Philadelphia's decision to release him, a star player, to a division opponent, and then see him succeed. More would be further exacerbating that decision and spouting revenge, using this upcoming game as a springboard to speak his mind about leaving the team that drafted him and invested six years with him.
"It's just part of history. It just happened," he said. "As far as my career and where I'm at now, I just look at it as something that happened and I'm happy to be here in Washington and I'm not looking back. It's in the past and it's over and done with…I'm blessed to say I have a job and still playing at a high level. Anything else really doesn't matter.
"It's not the first time I've played them. It probably won't be the last either. As far as just being calm and [collected], just highly anticipating this game and just getting ready for it, I'm definitely excited about the opportunity we have to go back in Philly and play in front of a lot of fans that, some like me, some probably don't."
Regardless of the off-field chatter, Jackson has begun to find his groove late in the season with quarterback Kirk Cousins, and their budding relationship should figure to be a major obstacle for Jackson's former team hoping to prolong its season one more week.
Though Jackson didn't practice Wednesday (knee), his return from injury, which forced him out of six games plus most of the season opener after he strained his hamstring, has become a huge boost to the offense week by week.
In the team's first seven games, Cousins averaged 6.48 yards per attempt. In the last seven games, with Jackson in the lineup, he's upped his average to 8.82 yards. That was raised last week when Jackson caught six passes for 153 yards, including a 77-yard touchdown -- his fourth score in the last five games -- an indication of the pair's growing rapport.
"As far as the success that me and Kirk have had, it's just really been building trust and just knowing where I'm going to be at when I'm coming out of my breaks and depending on the routes or the play call and things like that or that ability," Jackson said. "I'm just doing my job, he's doing his job, and we're having fun doing it and winning at the same time. So we're just trying to do something special here."
"I think we're in a good place. I think it can grow quite a bit. I think it's going to grow over time," Cousins said. "The more reps we're able to have together, the more time we're able to have together, the better we'll be. I think it's in a good place and I think that has been evident the last few weeks. He's a very talented player."
Finding a rapport together at Lincoln Financial Field is already something they've leaned on. Last season, fans will remember Jackson's headline day, which included an 81-yard touchdown pass, in a high-scoring loss that featured Cousins, who was pulled into the starting job on short notice after Robert Griffin III injured his ankle the week before.
In his two games against the Eagles, both coming in 2014, Jackson has totaled nine receptions for 243 yards, the kind of payback Jackson would prefer facing his former employer.
"I definitely see it progressing. The last few games, he's finding him," left tackle Trent Williams said. "From the outside looking in, when you watch them play, it looks like they're starting to click. I think the sky's the limit for that duo. Kirk's a great player. DeSean's a great player. Two great players -- I'm not going to say always play great together, but the majority of the time they're going to have some great plays."
With a banged up Eagles secondary – including cornerback Byron Maxwell, who didn't participate in practice on Wednesday – Cousins and Jackson should have several opportunities to have some more big-play opportunities.
"I could care less who is guarding me," Jackson told Philadelphia reporters in a conference call on Wednesday. "Depending on whoever it is, good luck to them."
The Redskins know Jackson has the potential to make good on that swagger. Really, they just want to see him continue to be himself, to make big plays and draw extra eyes, especially if that means a victory and an NFC East division crown on Saturday.
"I wish to say that everything will happen in the great way – I'll score touchdowns and win games and we'll be coming back to Washington with a lock-guaranteed position and be in the playoffs," Jackson said. "As far as anything else, about predicting what's going to happen in the game, as far as emotions and what will go on, I can't really predict that."