After just three seasons, CB Josh Jackson’s time with the Green Bay Packers is officially over. Jackson was traded to the New York Giants in a straight swap for fellow CB Isaac Yiadom, as both players look to finally have some success in a new location.
There were high hopes for Jackson when he was drafted 45th overall in 2018. He was considered a ‘steal’ by many, and when the Packers were on the clock at 18th overall in the first round, many would’ve been pleased if Jackson had been the selection then.
However despite the great value, Jackson never lived up to the expectations that he would help form one of the league’s best young secondaries alongside Jaire Alexander and Kevin King.
Let’s take a look at Jackson’s career to this point:
The breakout junior season at Iowa
Jackson was a relative unknown in the college football world entering 2017. While he showed some promise in his sophomore year, nobody was expecting him to be in early first-round conversations heading into the draft a year later.
Jackson started out the 2017 season with an interception of Wyoming (and now Buffalo Bills) superstar QB Josh Allen. He followed it up a few weeks later with an elite three-interception performance against Ohio State.
This included an insane leaping one-handed grab in the end zone on what was otherwise a perfectly thrown pass from JT Barrett.
Jackson finished the season leading all of college football in interceptions (eight) and pass breakups (18). After attracting the attention of the nation, he declared for the NFL Draft and was considered by many as a first-round pick.
Rookie season in Green Bay
Following a disappointing combine performance, Jackson’s stock fell slightly as others, including Jaire Alexander, leapfrogged ahead of him in draft rankings. Still, Jackson warranted a top-50 selection in the draft.
An injury-riddled second season from Kevin King threw Jackson into the deep end early on. By far the most snaps of his career to this point came in his rookie season.
He was on the field for the majority of snaps in every game apart from one, splitting time between the perimeter and the slot.
For the most part, he was average, with a few strong performances here and there. His Week 9 performance against the Patriots probably remains the best game of his pro career. There was still optimism that Jackson could take a big step in year two.
An underwhelming second year
After Jaire Alexander’s very impressive rookie season, Packers fans knew they had a stud, future Pro Bowl CB1 on their team.
While we all clamored over Jaire and the emergence of the D-train in 2019, none of us paid much attention to Jackson who failed to build upon his rookie season.
A foot injury in training camp prior to the 2019 season hurt Jackson in more ways than one. In his absence, undrafted free agent Chandon Sullivan got a chance to shine, taking the team’s lead role at slot corner and hasn’t lost it since.
Jackson saw extremely limited time throughout his second season, mainly contributing on special teams. A rare fully healthy season from Kevin King plus some solid play from new contributors such as Ka’dar Hollman pushed Jackson further down the depth chart.
Evaluation time for Jackson
Final evaluations on players after three seasons of play are generally pretty accurate. After two years with not much to shout about, Jackson needed to prove his worth in 2020.
First, he had to have some things go his way to even get on the field. He got that. An October injury to Kevin King sidelined him for six straight games. Jackson was the next man up.
It was his first considerable share of snaps since his rookie season. King’s subpar play through the first month of the season meant that Jackson didn’t quite have to ball out to keep pace. On the whole, Jackson was a slight downgrade from King, but it wasn’t an egregious drop off in play.
However, the Packers coaches appeared to have seen enough. When King returned for the remainder of the season, Jackson was often a ‘healthy scratch’, left inactive on game days as the Packers opted for others as depth at cornerback.
One last chance with the Packers
Despite being over the cap this past offseason, the Packers prioritized the cornerback position.
First, they tendered RFA Chandon Sullivan, then they re-signed Kevin King on a two-year deal, and finally they drafted Eric Stokes 29th overall along with Shemar Jean-Charles on day three.
With young Packers Kabion Ento and Ka’dar Hollman also showing promise, we knew that there wasn’t room for all of these guys on the final roster.
In Saturday’s preseason opener against the Texans, with Alexander and King both inactive, Jackson had one last chance to prove he’s worthy of a place on the roster for this season.
It’s pretty safe to say that he blew it. Jackson was picked on again and again by Texans QBs Tyrod Taylor and Davis Mills, and despite one or two nice plays, it was overall a noticeably poor performance from Jackson, enough for Green Bay to send him out of town.
Is there any hope left for Josh Jackson?
A fresh start in the Big Apple was probably what was best for the former Hawkeye. It just clearly wasn’t working out for him in Wisconsin.
At 25 years old, he still has the opportunity to make a few active rosters in the remainder of his career, and he’ll probably find his way onto a practice-squad roster at worst.
When you look at the premium pick where Jackson was drafted, he’s probably been Brian Gutekunst’s worst draft selection as a GM so far, even though most of us would’ve chose him as well.
The breakout 2017 year at Iowa will remain a mystery. How on earth did Jackson become one of the hottest DB prospects in the country for a year, and never show the same talent again, we will likely never know.