Malik Jackson fitting right in with Eagles' D line
The Eagles’ offseason was, at least on paper, a rousing success, highlighted by their decision to bring in three free agents with Super Bowl rings.
OK, so what if two of them won those rings with the Eagles, in Vinny Curry and Timmy Jernigan? They know what it takes to get there, and how solid preparation now, as the Eagles get set to resume their second week of OTAs on Tuesday, can carry over into summer and fall.
The third player sporting a Super Bowl ring is Malik Jackson, who won a Super Bowl with the Denver Broncos in 2015, a season in which he had 5.5 sacks, two fumble recoveries, and 46 tackles and 16 quarterback hits.
“Everybody's cool, relaxed, but they understand what it means to work,” said Jackson. “I think once you get that Super Bowl, now you understand the blueprint. Now you know what it takes to kind of - this time of the year isn't to get better for summer or camp. It's stepping stones.
“Everything is just to get better, better, better - not to take it easy here and get better there. I think they understand what it takes to get to the Super Bowl and the coaches understand and they treat us as such, as far as getting ready and keeping us healthy.
“It's a fun vibe. In my opinion, it's a very player-friendly vibe, but they also understand what it means to work hard. When we're eating, everybody's laughing, everybody's talking. When we're in the locker room or weight room, not too much talking. We're all working. We're all pushing. I like that. It's nice.”
Still, Jackson is at more of a disadvantage than Curry and Jernigan, because he is still grasping the nuances of defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz’s defense, but so far so good, at least from a he-likes-it point of view.
“It's very defensive line friendly,” said Jackson. “It allows you just to go get it. It's nice to be under him who allows us D-linemen to just go get the quarterback and go get sacks. It's awesome.”
Schwartz, of course, likes to rotate his defensive linemen. That sort of approach is liked by some, but not all. Michael Bennett certainly was no fan of it, and if Derek Barnett hadn’t gotten hurt halfway through last season, increasing Bennett’s snaps, who knows how disruptive the situation may have become.
Jackson, though, has no problem with rotating in and out.
“I think it's going to help us a lot - being able to go in there and stay fresh,” he said. “I think the one thing I've learned in this league is of course you want to go in there and play early, but it's about the end of the game - finishing the game at a high level when everybody else is tired.
“Coach understands that here and we have a great rotation of D-line right now. We just got to keep going after it.”
The defensive line has the potential to be the best in the league, much the way it was when they won Super Bowl LII. While the defensive end spot may be a bit young, with the Eagles needing somebody to step up on the outside, the team looks loaded at tackle, with Jackson, Fletcher Cox, Jernigan, Hassan Ridgeway, Treyvon Hester, and Bruce Hector.
“On paper, there ain't no reason we're not a better team than last year,” said Jernigan. “I'm feeling good about where we at. I embrace Malik. I think he's a hell of a player. I'm looking forward to learning from him the things that I can learn from him.
“Whatever I can do to make me a better player and help the team and play my role. I ain't overstepping no boundaries. Whatever they ask me to do, I'm going to do and I'm going to keep it moving.”
Jernigan, who was released by the Eagles in March, was re-signed right before the NFL Draft began, way after Jackson had been added to the mix.
“I don't care,” said Jernigan about Jackson’s presence. “I believe in me. I believe in Timmy. Straight up. I believe in Timmy.”
Jernigan and Jackson have seemingly become well-acquainted.
“I love Tim,” said Jackson. “I think he's comfortable right now. I'm a little uncomfortable. I'm still getting comfortable learning the plays, so I'm able to go out there and be where I'm supposed to be when everybody else is.”
The learning process hasn’t slowed the type of leadership another veteran like Jackson is capable of providing.
“He's been great,” said head coach Doug Pederson. “He's been great with that group, great in the room. Again, he's another one of the new additions that I'm excited not only for OTAs, but once we get into camp and put the pads on and get him next to Fletcher and work inside.
“He's just a bright spot. The conversations I've had with him out on the field during the spring, he's excited to be here. It's a great opportunity for him.”