He looks the same as he did as a rookie.
Jackson last got the chance to be the regular starting running back for the Packers in 2007, his rookie season. Starting the first three games, he carried 38 times for just 97 yards (2.6 yards per carry), eventually losing his starting job to fellow rookie DeShawn Wynn, a seventh-round pick. While carrying a heavy load early in his rookie season, Jackson was indecisive, failing to show the vision that was supposed to make him a good fit for the zone running system.
Fast forward to last Sunday, and Jackson looked like the same back. He all but admitted as much in his postgame comments. When asked about what he needs to improve on he said, "Just attacking the hole more, just being more aggressive. It felt like I was just trying to read it out and just pace myself. I've got to come out with a better start." That is hardly the talk of a four-year veteran.
"Coaching him up" has not worked.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Among the assistants, there might not be a better coach in the league at getting running backs ready to play under difficult circumstances than Edgar Bennett. Just look at his short history as an assistant in Green Bay (since 2005). Samkon Gado. Vernand Morency. Noah Herron. DeShawn Wynn. Ryan Grant. All have had a level of success when the Packers were hurting. Bennett found effectiveness, and in some cases, an overnight sensation, when there appeared to be nothing.
With Jackson, however, there has been little resemblance of that trend. Bennett's track record and his extended time with Jackson at least puts the onus on Jackson to perform at this stage.
He's leaving valuable yards on the field.
The role of the big run during a game cannot be understated. In addition to it being deflating for a defense, it can be an unexpected boost for an offense. The Packers had that threat with Grant, not with Jackson. In fact, of his 186 career carries, Jackson has just two runs of longer than 20 yards, and one came during garbage time.
Sure, Jackson has shown a knack to break tackles, but if a play is blocked perfectly, the Packers have much less of a chance of Jackson taking it to the house, or at the least, putting together a big gainer. Bennett referred to two such plays Sunday vs. the Bills when Jackson left some additional yards on the field. As good as the Packers' offense is, it cannot afford to waste such opportunities. They can dictate the flow of a game — especially against tougher opponents than the Bills.
He's always praised for his blitz pickup.
Packers coaches are quick to note Jackson's ability to pick up the blitz, no doubt an important component in keeping defensive players off prized quarterback Aaron Rodgers. But seldom have they talked about an improvement in Jackson's running game. That speaks volumes.
Instead, Jackson makes the team because he is the safe veteran. He takes care of the ball, knows the offense and has improved his conditioning. While those things are important, they hardly warrant a roster spot year after year.
By now, the talk of Jackson should be about his running more than anything. After all, he has four years in the league and in this system. He is a second-round pick from Nebraska. There has to be more than meets the eye, right?
The Jaguars' Maurice Jones-Drew can pick up the blitz, too, but his running makes him a great back and sure-fire starter even though he is smaller than most. Built similarly to Jones, Jackson looks the part, but fails to match looks with production.
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Matt Tevsh has covered the Packers since 1996. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org