Which Packers could enjoy breakout performances in the 2020 season?
The Green Bay Packers have a relatively young team. On the defense, new linebacker Christian Kirksey just turned 28 this month and is the oldest player on the defense, and the 10th-oldest player on the team. That means there will be over 40 players on the roster who will be 28 years old or younger this season.
With a team that has that much youth, there are bound to be players who are going to break out sooner rather than later.
Here are five Packers who are candidates to break out this season.
1. Josh Jackson
The Packers drafted Josh Jackson with the 45th overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Many thought he could have been a first-round pick after a great final year at Iowa where he had eight interceptions, and two returned for touchdowns.
The Packers took him even after drafting Jaire Alexander in the first round. They were loading up at the cornerback position and hoping Alexander and Jackson would be their cornerback duo of the future. Alexander has been trending upward since his rookie season, budding into a star.
Jackson, on the other hand, has been essentially invisible. In his rookie season, he played a lot on defense. He was on the field for 50 percent or more of the defensive snaps in 13 of the 16 games he played, and 68 percent of all defensive snaps.
Now, part of that may have been because Kevin King was injured and played in just six games in 2018, giving Jackson more experience. Unfortunately, the experience didn’t necessarily translate into good play. In the 2019 season, Pro Football Focus had Jackson with just a 59.1 overall grade, which roughly translates to a low backup player or a player who is replaceable.
Last season, Jackson couldn’t even get on the field. He played just 10 percent of all defensive snaps, a huge drop-off. This was interesting because Chandon Sullivan (34 percent) appeared on defense more than Jackson. He was essentially demoted to a special teams player.
Sullivan is slated to take over the nickel corner position, previously occupied by Tramon Williams. That would open up a spot for Jackson to move up. He seems to be taking advantage of the opportunity. Jackson has played well in camp and has made an impression on defensive coordinator Mike Pettine. In a recent meeting with the media, Pettine has made it clear that Jackson will get some significant playing time on defense.
Jackson will essentially be the first man off the bench should there be an injury or a substitution. I would expect to see Jackson on the field a lot more this season. And with the way he’s been performing at camp, we could see Jackson break out this year and make the Packers’ decision with Kevin King harder this upcoming offseason.