Broncos Hoping to Capitalize on Kareem Jackson's Knowledge of the Texans
In the NFL, each week seemingly provides the opportunity for former teammates to match up against each other as foes, with a point to prove. This week, it’s the Denver Broncos' outstanding safety Kareem Jackson returning to Houston to take on his former Texans teammates.
The hard-hitting defender has been clueing in his Broncos teammates on how best they can defend and plan ahead for Sunday’s AFC battle because for nine seasons, Jackson performed predominantly as a cornerback for the Texans after Houston spent a first-round draft pick on him coming out of Alabama.
Now in his first year in Denver, after a short period of playing some nickel cornerback due to injury on the depth chart, head coach Vic Fangio very wisely and effectively has utilized the 31-year-old defensive back as a search-and-destroy safety in his scheme.
Jackson's strengths of laying down big hits and his special skill-set in providing support when defending the run were altogether a better fit at safety. He has also gone on to aid his partner on the backend, Justin Simmons, who has progressed to an elite level this season with Jackson at his side.
Jackson’s former head coach in Houston, Bill O’Brien, was quick to point out the strengths of his former charge during his conference call with Denver media this week, perhaps before he knew the safety was turning state's evidence against his old team.
“He’s a really good tackler, a physical player, instinctive player; he’s playing at a really high level,” O’Brien said of Jackson.
With his former coach well aware of Jackson’s abilities, it’s the safety's deeper information about the inner workings and tendencies of the Texans defense (and offense) that he has been passing along to his fellow Broncos.
“Just having him break down personnel, talking about what they like to do – he [saw] it every day in practices when he was there,” Simmons said earlier this week.
This week presents a significant challenge for the Broncos defense, going against a playoff-caliber team with an explosive QB in DeShaun Watson, so any possible snippet of info to gain an advantage is well received.
The problem is, what was emerging as a team strength in the cornerback pairing nicknamed 'Harris Island' right before the bye has since taken major steps backward. Davontae Harris has regressed to the point he has returned to the bench and even standout corner Chris Harris, Jr. has been beaten for damaging scores lately at inopportune moments.
If Jackson is hoping for a winning return to the city he called home for near-on a decade, he will need a much better performance from his fellow cover men against the superstar Watson and All-Pro WR De Andre Hopkins.
“I think he’ll be fine," Fangio said on Wednesday. "I’m sure it means a little bit more to him to go home and play his best. I think after all the time in those situations after you get over that initial part of that, it just becomes a game.”
The Broncos might need more than insider info to pull off this smash-and-grab and steal one in Houston, but Jackson is well motivated for the formidable challenge that lies ahead.