Last season as a rookie second-round draft pick, Josh Jackson played in 16 games with 10 starts. He lined up for 718 snaps, including an average of 64.8 over one four-game span at midseason.
Through nine games this season, Jackson has played 68 snaps. In a new low, he was inactive last week against the Chargers.
While he could choose to sulk and be bitter, Jackson has done his best to keep a positive outlook and be a good teammate.
“Not really too frustrating,” Jackson said. “We’re winning, so that covers up a lot of things. As long as we’re winning, it’s fine. I’m not really tripping. Just got to do my job and, when my name is called upon, I’ve got to be ready and embrace the opportunity. That’s really all I can say.”
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The obvious question is what happened to such a promising prospect? Last season, Jackson finished second on the team with 10 passes defensed. His size and physicality should have been an asset against receivers with those skill-sets. Instead, after playing 34 snaps at Dallas in Week 5, he’s played only five snaps – at the end of the Week 7 game against Oakland – the past four weeks.
Jackson’s season was derailed in training camp, when he missed the first two weeks with a foot injury.
“Just not being out there kind of got him behind,” defensive coordinator Mike Pettine said. “Will Redmond and Chandon (Sullivan) both have played a lot of reps and kind of gotten their own little niche in what they’re doing and they’re doing a real nice job on special teams, as well. That just kind of got him behind. He hasn’t really been able to overcome those guys.”
Jackson agreed the injury was a “setback.” In theory, the season-ending injury to safety Raven Greene could have opened the door for Jackson. Instead, Pettine has gone with a combination of Redmond and Sullivan as the sixth defensive back. In theory, the on-again, off-again availability of Kevin King could have opened the door for Jackson. Instead, Pettine went with Tony Brown last week.
With the return of safety Ibraheim Campbell to take the snaps Greene was getting as the dime linebacker, the door seems closed on Jackson. That doesn’t mean he’s out of the Packers’ plans, though. Ultimately, he could replace Tramon Williams in the slot. Williams is the oldest defensive back in the league. He’ll be a free agent next year and will turn 37 in March.
“Part of it, too, is just us trying to find a permanent home for him,” Pettine continued. “Like, do we want him as an outside corner? He showed a lot of progress this offseason and the beginning of the year playing the nickel for us. That’s probably, ultimately, his best spot, which obviously Tramon’s entrenched there now. But he’s a versatile guy. He want to avoid him becoming the cliché, the jack of all trades master of none. He can play a little safety, he can play a little outside, he can play a little nickel. We want to find that permanent home for him.”
Until opportunity knocks, Jackson will keep coming to work and promises not to be a “Debbie Downer” on the team.
“I think it’s by the way I was raised and being humble and sticking with the plan and not being out of my character just because I don’t have what I want right now,” Jackson said. “I’ve got to stay patient, stay focused and stick to the plan. I know there are better days ahead for me.”