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Rams’ DeSean Jackson can see how his connection with Matthew Stafford will be the bomb

DeSean Jackson stretches on Day 2 of the Rams' three-day minicamp.
(Gary Klein / Los Angeles Times)

It’s not that complicated, according to DeSean Jackson.

During offseason workouts, the new Rams receiver has worked to get a feel for new quarterback Matthew Stafford.

Jackson has been one of the NFL’s top deep-ball threats since he entered the league in 2008. Stafford, a 13th-year pro, has one of the league’s strongest arms.

Jackson said Tuesday that establishing a connection and timing ultimately comes down to communicating and understanding what each player does best. Instructions for both apparently are simple.

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“You continue to be great and just throw the ball, and I’m going to continue to be great and just run past everybody and use my speed,” Jackson said, chuckling, during a videoconference with reporters. “I think that’s the good niche about us, we’re just going to be dialed in and just continuously just learn the plays — and once the season starts, we’ll be in rare … form.”

Jackson, 34, is regarded as the deep threat who can help coach Sean McVay return the Rams offense to its high-powered form of the 2018 season, when the Rams advanced to the Super Bowl.

Cam Akers did not have the benefit of a normal offseason because of restrictions caused by the pandemic, but the rookie still was able to establish himself as the Rams’ lead running back.

The offense was devoid of a deep threat last season, when the Rams lost in the divisional round of the NFC playoffs. In January, general manager Les Snead traded quarterback Jared Goff and two first-round draft picks to the Detroit Lions for Stafford. Then he signed Jackson, the former Long Beach Poly High star who played in a McVay-designed offense in Washington during the 2014 to 2016 seasons.

Jackson said McVay was smart when he was the offensive coordinator in Washington, and that he has only grown smarter since. The Rams offense is similar in many ways to the one Jackson executed in Washington — but also different.

“He’s always adding twists and schemes into his offense to keep the defenses off guard,” Jackson said of McVay. “So I’m still diving into it and trying to gather all the information and still learn, but it’s been a great process so far working with the new guys on the team and just having a lot of fun doing it.”

After his stint in Washington, Jackson played two seasons for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and two injury-plagued seasons for the Philadelphia Eagles before the Rams signed him to a one-year contract that includes $2.75 million in guarantees, according to overthecap.com.

Punter Johnny Hekker always had been a huge asset to the Rams, but his salary is getting higher and he had a down season in 2020, so he is competing to keep his job.

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Some of the play-call verbiage has changed since he last coached Jackson, but McVay said the receiver’s transition has been smooth.

“He’s so smart,” McVay said, “he picks things up quickly.”

Jackson said he has enjoyed sharing information with and learning from Rams veterans Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp, and mentoring young receivers such as Van Jefferson and rookie Tutu Atwell.

The receivers, along with tight end Tyler Higbee and running back Cam Akers and others, should provide Stafford with multiple weapons.

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“It’s going to be definitely a scary group for defenses and defenders,” Jackson said, “because Sean McVay, one thing about it, he’s going to figure out how to get people open.

“So we just look forward to having a lot of fun doing it.”

Jackson, a three-time Pro Bowl selection, has amassed 612 catches, 56 for touchdowns, while averaging 17.4 yards per catch. He acknowledged that statistics and accolades were important to his younger self, but after watching teams such as the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers annually contend and win titles with proven systems, he wants a championship.

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“I’ve accomplished a lot of great things in my career,” he said, “but for me I haven’t held up that trophy.”

Jackson was limited to eight games the last two seasons because of abdominal, hamstring and ankle injuries. He appeared to be practicing without limitations Tuesday and said he would spend time between the end of minicamp Thursday and the start of training camp in late July preparing his body for what will be the NFL’s first 17-game season.

“I know what I need to do to get right,” he said.


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