The Packers second round corner Josh Jackson missed almost the entire first month of training camp with a foot injury. It was not an ideal situation for Jackson who needed to show improvement after a rollercoaster of a rookie season.
One season removed from leading the NCAA in interceptions, Jackson never quite looked comfortable in 2018. He led the team with seven penalties, most of them holding calls. Instead of trusting his feet, Jackson was grabbing the receivers jersey.
At Iowa, Jackson benefited from playing in a zone scheme. He thrived at being able to read the quarterback rather than matching the footwork of the receiver. During the pre-draft process started Jackson to slide out of the first round in most mock drafts citing his inability to play man. Most of those analysts were right as he then had a tough transition to the NFL.
Last season, defensive coordinator Mike Pettine said that Jackson was one of the defensive backs he required to wear boxing gloves in practice. All to avoid grabbing the jersey of the receiver.
When the Packers entered the offseason, Jackson’s play had raised more questions than it answered. Some even wondered if a transition to safety was in order to allow him to keep the play in front and avoid penalties.
However, Green Bay didn’t budge. Wee are about to enter the 2019 season, Jackson is still at corner and appears to be heading in the right direction. Thursday night while most starters were sitting, Jackson was on the field getting his first game action of the summer.
The Raiders tested him deep during the first quarter. The slot receiver got a good outside release on Jackson and made him flip his hips. He remained in-phase with the receiver and did not panic by grabbing him. As the receiver turned to catch the ball Jackson got his hands up at the perfect time to knock the ball away.
The next series, Jackson made another player on the ball that he nearly picked. To most viewers it probably wasn’t much but two pass breakups in just 24 snaps was a good start. While other players may sit out the preseason finale, the Packers may decide to play Jackson again.
Kevin King is still not practicing so they could need Jackson to step up next week in the season opener against the Bears. After two preseason games, Jackson should be ready to play and hopefully have an established rhythm at corner in week one.
A strong end to the preseason could do a lot for Jackson’s confidence to start the regular season.
___________________Brandon Carwile was a Cheesehead at birth. His dad grew up attending games at Lambeau and passed on the legacy. He has covered the Packers for over five years and currently works with packerstalk.com. Find him on twitter at @PackerScribe.