ENGLEWOOD, Colo—Wednesday, during a press conference at Dove Valley, Denver Broncos defensive end Malik Jackson gave his thoughts on everything from defensive coordinator Wade Phillips' 3-4 scheme, to comparisons with Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett.
To start things off, Jackson, entering his third year with the Broncos out of Tennessee, talked about the 3-4 defense. He’s been in a 4-3 since entering the league in 2012, but this year, he’ll play within a system many believe he was born for.
“With the coaches that we have, I think they help us learn it better and put us in positions to win,” he siad. “As far as last year to this year, I think that [defensive line coach] Bill Kollar just got us moving better and doing the right things. From that aspect, I'd say that he helps us get our defense better. I think as long as you are a player, you can get it done.”
Everyone wants to know what the defensive line’s initial impressions are of the coach who once wrestled a bear—Bill Kollar. Derek Wolfe praised him yesterday. Jackson followed suit.
“He's a serious guy but he likes to have fun,” Jackson said. “He's going to get your work in and make sure that we're the best defensive line in the league. That's what I'm learning. You have to have a great work ethic. I've just learned that you have to put in the work to get the success. That's what I'm trying to do.”
Since he was drafted in the fifth round of the 2012 NFL Draft, Jackson has been indelibly connected to defensive line mate and fellow 2012 draftee Derek Wolfe, whom the Broncos drafted in the second round that season. Jackson explored how the 3-4 defense fits he and Wolfe.
“I think it will be a good fit just from going through the motions as far learning the plays and going out here and doing it with the defense,” he said. “It kind of gives us a little more leeway to go straight and get the one-on-one blocks. It just lets us get out there, gives us more free range and get more pass rush opportunities, instead of staying on blocks and things like that. I think that's what the 3-4 does for us. I think it helps us.”
Jackson was then asked about the Broncos first round draft selection Shane Ray and whether getting another edge rusher in Ray will help. Jackson likes the addition.
“Besides 'D-Ware (OLB DeMarcus Ware) and [OLB] Von [Miller] and the guys we have now, it should help out a lot,” Jackson said. “I think he's [Ray] going to be a good addition to the team. Just coming in here, sitting and learn behind D-Ware and Von and getting acclimated to the league—it's a lot bigger, stronger and faster—I think he'll be good for us.”
In one of my previous MHH articles, I talked about how recently-acquired veteran defensive end Antonio Smith is willing to be a mentor and a leader for numerous Broncos defensive line teammates, including Jackson. Jackson talked about his initial impressions of Smith.
“Great guy,” Jackson said. “Just one of those [guys] that wants to teach all he knows and is just fun. He plays around with you, but also works. He's just a guy that came in here and is about 33. [He] started playing in the early 90's (laughing) but just a guy that knows his stuff and is going to teach you what he knows and just wants the best for you.”
Jackson was then asked if he feels the defense will blitz more than last year but did not imply this would be the case. Rather, he said, “I feel like we blitzed a lot last year. That was just me playing the defense. I think we're going to have a lot more guys rushing off the edge, but as far as blitzing, I don't think so. If you can rush, he (Phillips) is going to rush you. If you can drop back, he's going to let you drop back.”
Jackson later fielded a question concerning his high production in a limited amount of snaps (he has 9 sacks in 8 starts scattered over three seasons, as well as 10 passes defensed and two forced fumbles).
“I just look at as just being relentless when you're out there,” he said. “When you've got guys like Wolfe in there, who I shared snaps with last year, you know that he's going to get his snaps and do his thing. I just looked at it as when I got my opportunity, I just had to go out there and just give it your all and go back to the sideline and keep doing it like that. I think with more snaps will come more production, I hope. That's what I'm working for.”
When asked if he has heard comparisons to Seattle’s Bennett, Jackson said, “I see it. He's a fast and quick guy. He likes to just throw his hands and work moves. He just counters a lot. Just real shifty. I see myself wanting to be like that, especially get that paycheck like him. That would be nice. I've just got to keep working, get up there and get to a status. I'm a little behind right now.”
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In playing off of his “paycheck” comment, Jackson's next question concerned whether a salary increase in his next contract is in the back of his mind. He didn’t shy away from the truth in his response.
“That's always in the back of your mind,” he said. “It's a big year for me. It's my contract year. If I told you I wasn't thinking about that, I'd be lying. I know what I have to do is go out here and produce and make it hard on Elway not to give it to me. I'm just trying to work, stay healthy and slowly chop at getting that big deal.”
With the NFL Draft weekend so recently in the books, the topic of Jackson’s pre-draft experience back in 2012 was broached. In closing, he was asked if there were a lot of 3-4 defensive teams talking to him back during his draft process.
“To be honest with you, I didn't even know what team played what defense,” he said. “I barely went to the Senior Bowl. I got called for the Combine. I was just trying to show what I had and make a team like me.”
Jackson has the skill-set to become a star, and the work ethic to match. Since the Broncos drafted him in 2012, I have always respected his big play ability but at times, he has committed egregious errors that have hurt the team, as well.
If Jackson can master his aggression completely and play under control, the sky is the limit for him, as he enters his contract year.