Malik Jackson: ‘This Is a Bigger Year Than Last Year’
JACKSONVILLE — Most people who win a Super Bowl say they want to go to Florida and visit Disney World. But Malik Jackson set his sights on the Sunshine State for a different reason. After becoming a household name by jumping on Cam Newton’s fumble in the end zone for the first score of Super Bowl 50, Jackson hit the free-agent market and left an alltime great Broncos defense to join the Jacksonville Jaguars, who had one of the NFL’s worst defenses in 2015. The MMQB caught up with Jackson after a recent practice to talk about winning the Lombardi Trophy, the pressure that accompanies his six-year, $90 million contract, and his role in the Jags’ new-look D.
KAHLER: Take me inside your head when you jumped on the fumble from Von Miller’s strip sack of Cam Newton in Super Bowl 50. What did you see?
JACKSON: As I was looking to the quarterback, I saw Von pretty much get him and I saw him pull the ball out. Right when I saw the ball in the air I stopped and said, ‘Oh, s---!’ I tried to get off the block and I just ran to it as fast as I could and I jumped on it. After that I didn’t know what to do because I had never scored a touchdown before, so I just ran around a little bit and threw the ball. I wish I had practiced that part.
KAHLER: Did you realize that it was your big moment?
JACKSON: Not really, I was just more like, Ball’s out! So that split-second in the movies where you are talking to yourself, a three-minute monolog, no, that didn’t happen. I just thought, Ball is out, I’ve gotta get it. I wish I would have picked it up and ran two yards, but to jump on it in the end zone was just as cool. I realize now how big of a play it was, more than I did at the time. You want to be remembered for sacks, but I am being remembered for a touchdown, so that’s pretty dope.
KAHLER: Do you think you made more money because of that play?
JACKSON: To be honest with you, I don’t think so. I think I would have gotten a nice tag anyway. If I would have gotten a sack, then maybe. But jumping on the ball just shows that as a defense we do our jobs and we get loose balls. I think it just showed a team effort.
KAHLER: What’s the biggest adjustment you’ve made from Denver to Jacksonville?
JACKSON: I think the biggest change is just playing three-technique all day. Over there it was a 3-4 system so I was pretty much a three, a four, a five, so I would see more people as far as guard and tackle go. But here it is just playing a three-technique and getting that down in my head, preparing for the blocks. The biggest process is just learning the scheme that they want me to play and trying to forget some of the things I have learned in the last four years and things I have worked on every day, just throw them to the side and do what they want you to do, because you want to please the coaches. I think that is the hardest part and what has taken me the longest, just being able to understand fully what they want and execute it.
KAHLER: Do you think this system a good fit for you?
JACKSON: I think so. Especially with [defensive coordinator Todd Wash], he allows us to go straight and rush the passer and create disruption. In this defense you are allowed to go do what you want to do, three-technique is never wrong, so once I can grasp that and go out there and play freely, I think I will get it soon and I’ll be great. Right now, I am trying to understand it. It’s not ingrained in me right now.
KAHLER: Wash is new to the job as Jaguars’ DC. What’s he like?
JACKSON: He’s a very player-friendly coach. If you want to talk about something personal, he’ll stop the meeting to talk about that. In a coach, that’s rare. I wouldn’t say he is a disciplinarian, but I would say he is strict when he has to be. But I think he understands that we are grown men and we understand what we have to do. He talks to us like men. When he gets upset, I’m not going to say he doesn’t get upset, he just talks to us very easy going and he makes us want to win for him. He definitely demands perfection, but hell, who doesn’t?
KAHLER: Was it an exciting challenge for you to go from the league’s top defense to one of its worst?
JACKSON: I think so. I get to go out here and teach these guys and tell them what I learned. I think once you get here, I think the fans really put the pressure on like, Super Bowl! Super Bowl! Super Bowl! I’m like, alright, I’m just trying to come here and do my thing. There are 11 of us. I think this team understands that, so when you go into the locker room, it’s all chill. Nobody is like, you do this, and you’re supposed to do this. We understand that we are all players and we’re all trying to get better together. I think that there is pressure, but not in the locker room. Everybody understands that this is the year we have to turn it around and we really have to start working hard and have a winning season and win the AFC South.
KAHLER: Do you feel pressure to play to your price tag and earn the full $90 million of your contract?
JACKSON: I would love to make all 90, that’s my goal. I don’t want to be a bust. I think I’ve worked hard to get to this point and I truly think this next year is the biggest year of my career. Last year, you want to work to get the big contract and stay healthy and win a Super Bowl. Now, I need to—I would like to—I am going to stay healthy, I’m going to ball out and I’m going to go earn the $90 million and show the fans, oh, he is really who we thought he was. It’s not pressure, but it’s expectations. It’s definitely nerve-wracking, but I definitely can feel that this is a bigger year than last year. Unless they give you all 90 up front, then there will be pressure.
KAHLER: This is the fourth year of GM Dave Caldwell and head coach Gus Bradley’s rebuild in Jacksonville. Do you think this is a make-or-break year for them?
JACKSON: It’s always about what have you done for me lately. As players we see what is going on. You want to win for coach Bradley, he brought me here to help him get this team going and for him to be able to stay and get some more years here. I understand that, I see that. We didn’t talk about that, but I’ve been in the league awhile so I can understand that. I just want to win for this guy. He’s a great guy, a great teacher, he gives you a lot of freedom, more than a lot of coaches in this league. He treats you like a man and that’s the type of guy you want to win for and you want to be around. I’ve been in the league for four years and I’ve seen coaches on my squad and I’ve seen coaches on other squads who are just disciplinarians and they don’t let you do anything, and it’s his way or the highway. Bradley is not like that. When you come across a coach that is cool like that and allows the players to determine where this team is going and he just watches over us and guides us, that’s awesome, so I definitely want to keep him here for that. It’s nice to have and it would be nice to keep around while I am here for my six.
KAHLER: You’re a veteran on this young defense, which is a new role for you. Have you stepped up as a leader?
JACKSON: I’m still trying to fix what I got to fix in myself, before I’m telling other guys what to do, and I feel like you have to go play well before you start looking guys in the eye. But it is definitely a cool role that I am going to embrace and keep working to earn the guys’ trust.
KAHLER: This is your first move to a new team after four years in Denver. Does it feel like home yet?
JACKSON: I think it is definitely a great fit for me because I am an older guy and I’ve been to a few Super Bowls so I can share my knowledge and help these guys, and they are helping me grow as much as I am helping them grow. I like the city because it’s not too party. It’s not retirement, but it’s not college. It’s in the middle, nothing too crazy goes on here and it’s nice when you are working. You don’t want a city like Miami where there are a lot more distractions. Here it’s just football, you go home and then it’s football. And I need that, personally.
KAHLER: What have you seen so far from Dante Fowler Jr., who is back from an ACL injury that sidelined him during his rookie campaign?
JACKSON: Dante has a lot of energy. He is a very cerebral player. To me, he is very Von-esque. I’ve seen some of that in Dante. I think he can definitely be the same player. Just a lot of potential, we’ve just got to go out there and work together to get these sacks.
KAHLER: You slimmed down this offseason to better face double-teams as a three-technique tackle. How did you cut weight and what food do you miss the most?
JACKSON: I just stopped eating as much and I got some egg whites in the morning and worked out just a little bit harder. I miss Carvel ice cream cakes, those are my favorite. I had to put those down. Every once in while I will cheat, I did right before camp. But now it’s just sitting in my freezer. It’s just eating a little healthier with better ingredients, switching to chicken instead of beef or turkey.
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