We continue our Chiefs Roster Evaluation series by taking a look at the play of former first round pick Tyson Jackson.
2010 was a strange season for Jackson. He started off the year as the starter after a disastrous rookie season. I was at the Monday Night Football game vs. the Chargers and I was paying particular attention to Jackson before he left the game with an injury. Truthfully, I liked what I saw. Jackson was playing the run much better, coming off his man and making tackles at the line. According to Pro Football Foucs, he also had 3 stops (tackles that constitute an offensive failure) in Week One. It looked like Jackson was going to show improvement in his second season, however, his injury turned out to be serious and he did not return until Week 7.
By the time Jackson returned from injury, the Chiefs had realized that Shaun Smith and Wallace Gilberrry were getting the job done in the run stop/pass rush department. Todd Haley did the right thing and limited Jackson’s snaps upon his return. Effectively, Jackson became a part time player. He usually got somewhere around 25-35 snaps a game, usually on running downs. This was a smart move by the Chiefs because they were able to give Jackson, whom they have have a lot of money invested in, experience without compromising the team’s chances.
So how did Jackson do with his limited snaps? We’ll break it down, after the jump.
Jackson did get better in his second season. To appreciate how much better Jackson got, we need to understand just how BAD he was in 2009.
In 2009, Jackson turned in the worst 3-4 DE performance Pro Football Focus had ever seen, grading at a horrendous -40.8. In 2010, albeit with about half the snaps he had in 2009, Jackson finished with an almost respectable -1.7.
The fact that Jackson showed so much improvement shows that there was obviously a huge learning curve for him entering the NFL. This is why many experts considered Jackson to be such a reach at the #3 overall pick. It wasn’t that he didn’t have the tools to be a good player but you want the #3 overall pick to come in and make an immediate impact. It took Jackson two whole seasons to go from terrible to slightly below average. That isn’t a guy you want to take with the 3rd overall pick.
Let’s take a look at the numbers from PFF. These numbers include the playoff game (in which Jackson played poorly). Thus TJ’s overall grade will be lower than the -1.7 I mentioned above, which was just for the regular season.
QB Hits: 0
QB Pressures: 3
Missed Tackles: 0
Run Defense: -1.4
Pass Rush: -3.4
Right now, Jackson is ascending backup. He most certainly improved in 2010 but he still wasn’t all that great. His play would be fine if he was a backup making a couple million dollars a year but as we know he is making much more than that.
The Chiefs have a lot of money invested in Jackson and they are stuck with his contract. They handled him the right way in 2010 by limiting his snaps but still giving him enough action to continue his development. Moving forward, however, it looks as though Jackson is going to have to earn his way on the field. As the Chiefs are improving, they are getting to the point that they don’t need to just throw a high draft pick rookie on the field if he isn’t the best player. Good teams with depth don’t have to start a bunch of inexperienced rookies. The Chiefs are moving toward an era where they can bring their rookies along at the proper pace and that is a good thing.
Is Jackson a bust? Based on where he was picked and how he has played, yes he is. Right now Jackson is a bust but that doesn’t mean he has to remain a bust. Like Glenn Dorsey before him, if Jackson keeps working he can improve and possibly can be KC’s starting DE. Like Dorsey it might take him longer than we all might have hoped but it will be better for the Chiefs if he arrives late instead of not at all.
2011 will be critical for Jackson. If he improves again he will likely remain with the Chiefs but if he levels out or regresses, he could find himself out of work. Right now, however, the Chiefs had better re-sign Shaun Smith.
Chiefs Roster Evaluation: