You know about Peyton, and Wes, and Von (when he returns) ... but do you know the invaluable Swiss Army knife keying the Denver defense?
As a fifth-round pick out of Tennessee in 2012, Broncos end/tackle Malik Jackson took the normal developmental route in his first season. In 14 games, he totaled 123 snaps in a reserve role. As far as rushing the passer, he accumulated just two quarterback hurries and a hit.
Jackson’s still a reserve in his second season, but he’s becoming one of value for the Broncos, especially rushing the passer. He matched his ’12 output with two hurries in the opening game, and had his best game Sunday against the Eagles with four hurries, a drawn hold and a sack assist. His 3.3 points—without a sack—earned him The MMQB’s Unsung Interior Rusher Award for Week 4.
“I think it's been the (increased) playing time, but also getting that first year under my belt and watching how a lot of our guys do their work,” Jackson said on Wednesday. “Getting to watch Derek Wolfe and Von (Miller) out there playing, guys like Elvis Dumervil (now with the Ravens) has really helped. And then you have guys inside like (Kevin) Vickerson and (Terrance) Knighton that have helped me out. So their example and leadership have been a factor, and then going out there against guys on our O-line. We have a bunch of pros and it just couldn't be a better situation for me.”
The Broncos’ final sack of Michael Vick on Sunday, with 11:21 left in the game, showed how Jackson is using the nice blend of strength and speed in his 6-5, 293-pound body to make things happen for teammates.
Jackson ran a game inside with Knighton crossing the center. Jackson looped quickly and got leverage on Eagles left tackle Jason Peters. That made Vick pull the ball down, and linebacker Wesley Woodyard and Wolfe converged for the sack.
“Basically T-Knight hit it first and got the center out of the way and I wrapped around him,” Jackson said. “He did a phenomenal job. I rushed up and then Wolfe was on the edge, spun inside and was right there for a pretty sack with Woodyard.”
Jackson’s inside/outside versatility has made him an invaluable Swiss Army knife along the Broncos’ front all season. He’s been a constant producer, to the point that his half sack, 12 hurries, two hits, sack assist and drawn hold has him—surprisingly—tied with Ndamukong Suh for second on our season totals for interior rushers behind Houston’s J.J Watt now that snap counts have been factored in with bye weeks starting (see below for the full interior rusher season rankings).
“I think people are like, 'Who is this guy?' which is fine with me,” Jackson said. “I'd like to have that breakout season so I hope people keep sleeping on me. I don’t think they know me yet. I'm pretty sure though that when they study you, they'll know how to beat you so I have to be prepared for that.”
Other accolades for Week 4:
Top interior rushers of Week 4: (tie) NaVorro Bowman, San Francisco; Ndamukong Suh, Detroit
With Patrick Willis out of the lineup, Bowman was allowed to expand his role against the Rams, and the team had to like what it saw. Bowman produced two sacks (one solo), three hurries and two hits on just 12 pass-rushing snaps for 4.5 pressure points. The only other inside linebacker to produce more than 3.0 pressure points was Mason Foster for the Buccaneers in Week 1. On his first sack, Bowman beat a running back and then a tight end. On his second, Bowman used a dazzling spin move to beat guard Chris Williams and force a fumble.
Suh, who already won the award in Week 1, had two sacks of his own and five hurries to tie for the top spot. For the season, he leads all interior rushers with 16.0 pressure points, and is tied for second behind J.J. Watt in pressure rate once snaps are factored in.
Here are our interior rusher rankings for Week 4:
And our interior rusher rankings for the season so far:
Top edge rusher of Week 4: Tamba Hali, Kansas City.
For the second straight week a Chief gets the nod, as Hali follows his bookend outside linebacker, Justin Houston. Not only did Hali have two sacks (neither was of the more heavily weighted solo variety), but he had eight hurries for the second straight week and drew a holding penalty. Houston may be tied with the Colts’ Robert Mathis for the league sack lead with 7.5, but Hali leads all edge rushers with 16.5 The MMQB pressure points so far this season, which leaves him tied for eighth when snaps are factored in (see below for our edge rusher season rankings).
Unsung edge rusher of Week 4: Rob Ninkovich, New England.
Didn’t take Ninkovich long to reinforce to the Patriots that he was worth his recent three-year contract extension, as his 4.0 pressure points against the Falcons were nearly as much as his first three games combined (5.6). Ninkovich didn’t have a sack against the Falcons, but his eight hurries were tied for a league high with Hali. None was bigger than the hurry he notched with 9:43 left in the game—not that you would have known it from the television broadcast. Ninkovich dipped inside right tackle Jeremy Trueblood and quickly got in the face of Matt Ryan. Ninkovich’s presence sped up the throw from Ryan to Roddy White and caused an underthrow that was intercepted by cornerback Aqib Talib. Not that viewers were told that. The only thing they heard about was Talib’s pick.
Here are our edge rusher rankings for Week 4:
And our edge rusher rankings for the season so far:
Here are our team rush rankings for Week 4:
And our team rush rankings for the season so far:
And, finally, our offensive line rankings for the season so far: