What to expect from Green Bay Packers second-round pick Josh Jackson in 2018.
The Green Bay Packers have undergone a bevy of changes so far this offseason. The coaching and front office staff is revamped for 2018, beginning at the top with the general manager and defensive coordinator.
The secondary, a group that finished 23rd in passing yards per game allowed in 2018, has been no exception to this turnover. Green Bay used its top two draft picks on cornerbacks, Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson.
The two rookies join a retooled group of defensive backs. With the addition of veteran Tramon Williams and the retention of Davon House, Green Bay has something it severely lacked last year: a veteran presence among the cornerbacks.
Second-year player Kevin King is also expected to take a big step forward. Expectations continue to grow for this revamped secondary unit.
The rookies will not be sitting idly by in 2018. First-round pick, Alexander, should slide into an immediate role as the team’s nickel corner.
Jackson, however, remains a question mark. Some viewed the former Hawkeye as a bit of a project. There were some questions about his ability to adjust to being a pro-style cornerback. His lack of experience as a starter led to many questions about his mental progressions from NFL scouts. Jackson only played one year as a starter at Iowa. However, he has landed into a near perfect situation in Green Bay.
As is mentioned above, the team’s cornerback situation is much improved from 2017. Therefore, Jackson will not be thrust into a starting role (barring any major injuries of course). Incumbent starter King will be the team’s number one corner. Free-agent addition Tramon Williams is expected to start the season as the team’s number two. Assuming that fellow rookie Alexander picks up most of the nickel corner duties, that brings us to Jackson.
Jackson primarily played at an outside corner position during his time at Iowa. His role in the NFL should be no different. There has been some rumbling out of OTAs (organized team activities) that Jackson could also see some time in the slot in sub-packages.
All of the comments from the coaches, evaluation of the talent at the position, and the team’s need for an infusion of energy and youth at the position point to Jackson being the team’s number four cornerback.
The best part about Jackson’s current position with the team is that there is no pressure on him to immediately succeed. If Jackson needs more time to soak in the pro game, then so be it. If he impresses coaches and surpasses players ahead of him on the depth chart, then that is great news for the Packers.
When you take Jackson’s current position and couple it with the veteran experience brought in, there is no reason to believe he is not fully equipped to succeed at the NFL level. On top of all of this is the team’s new defensive coordinator, Mike Pettine. Pettine excels at maximizing his players’ abilities. He was able to take an above-average defensive roster in the New York Jets and turn the unit into a top-five defense.
With that being said, Jackson excels at off-ball coverage. He excels at reading the quarterback’s eyes and making plays on the ball. He is a playmaker. After boasting a 2017 campaign in which he recorded eight interceptions at Iowa, Jackson caught the eyes of every football fan in the country.
His play was not necessarily flashy, but he had a penchant for the big play. This exact quality is what had fans of many teams clamoring for his services during the 2018 draft.
Pettine is going to put Jackson in situations to make plays. He will be allowed to play off-ball, drive on the ball, and make plays on it. He is going to be one of those players that makes this defense better. The rookie may not get a lot of interceptions himself, but he will create opportunities for others to make plays.
Reports out of OTAs have also said that Jackson is learning press techniques. At six-feet tall with a little over 31-inch arms, he has the build to be a good press corner in the NFL. If he is able to develop this skill, this will be yet another tool for him to add to his play-making skill set. Considering the reports of his work ethic, I feel he will have no problem learning how to be an effective press corner.
In my mind, Jackson is considered to make the final roster after final cuts are announced on September 1. NFL teams just don’t cut second-round picks in their rookie season, regardless of their development. On that note, Green Bay would be fools to place him on the practice squad. Therefore, it is safe to say that he will be on the final 53-man roster.
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This team could very well carry six cornerbacks into 2018. Rookie general manager Brian Gutekunst could also still be looking to add veteran talent at the position. Regardless of what happens with the roster, Jackson will be on it and he will compete for playing time.
Packers fans can expect to see Jackson on the field for about 20-30 percent of defensive snaps in 2018. While there is not a log jam at the position, there are others ahead of him on the depth chart. But as I stated before, this is a win-win for both Jackson and the Packers.
Rookie corners entering the NFL tend to struggle. The cornerback position is one of the hardest to adapt to out of college. For this reason, if Jackson only plays a small amount of snaps in 2018, it is not the end of the world. His snaps could easily increase with just one injury. If I had to forecast Jackson’s role in 2018, it would be one that is primarily developmental. The rookie will get his chances. Knowing the type of player that he is, I expect him to take full advantage of those chances.
Jackson may not have the biggest role in 2018, but will make an impact in whatever role he does have. That is just the type of player he is. He will be put in a position to succeed and I expect him to do so.
The expectations for the second-round pick are high, but fans should temper those expectations for the upcoming season. The coaches are not going to rush the rookie into playing time if he is not ready. Injuries forced Kevin King into significant playing time in his rookie season. However, this team is much better equipped to handle injuries than last year’s team.
This team is taking steps to get better. Jackson is in a prime position to succeed and will only get better as the season goes along. Fans will need to be patient and trust the coaching staff. He will get his chance, and he will not disappoint.