Less than a week after Devin Hester officially became the most prolific return specialist in NFL history against the Vikings, the Vikings will face the potential heir to the throne when they meet the Philadelphia Eagles and return specialist DeSean Jackson.
Jackson, unlike Hester, has been a big-play staple of the Eagles offense since his arrival and his return ability has been a happy by-product of his "take-it-to-the-house skill set." A day before Hester lit up the Vikings with a punt return TD and a kickoff return that came six yards away from going the distance, Jackson completed a miraculous, improbable comeback against the Giants with a punt return for a touchdown as time expired, leaving the Vikings questioning what they will do against him … which may be a lot of the same of what fans saw in the first half of Monday night's game.
Punter Chris Kluwe, always quick with a quip, didn't disappoint. As he prepared to explain what the Vikings were going to do, he stopped explaining blocking schemes and made it a little simpler.
"Hopefully, I'll just kick it out of bounds," Kluwe said with a laugh. "The less we need to deal with him the better, and I wouldn't be surprised if we just go with trying to get as many yards as possible and kick it out of bounds."
Jackson's ability as a return man and record-setting numbers involving long-distance touchdowns of 50 yards or more over the last two years are the calling cards that have to be cause for concern for special teams coach Brian Murphy.
"He's elusive," Murphy said. "He has home run speed and, most importantly, he's got a knack for the big play."
The Vikings have struggled in the recent past with return men with similar breakaway ability. Hester has burned them. So has Reggie Bush. It would seem that Jackson fits into that category and extreme caution will need to be used.
"They don't surprise you with what they do," special teams captain Heath Farwell said. "They block very well and he hits the return at full speed. He doesn't need much of a seam to break one, so we're all going to have to maintain our lane integrity."
Or just kick it out bounds?
"I guess that's an option we might use," Farwell said.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.