FA Series Pt. 7: Brandon Jackson

Brandon Jackson's statistics are anything but overwhelming. But for what the Packers expect from their running backs, he is the type of player who will be appreciated only if he signs elsewhere when free agency opens.

At some point, whether it's by the apparently forgotten art of negotiation or a court ruling, there will be football this year. That means there will be free agency.

The Green Bay Packers have 11 free agents — six of whom are unrestricted and five of whom may or may not be restricted, depending on the verbiage of the NFL's 2011 rules.

In this series, we will look at those players and tell you who should stay and who should go. Up next is the third player in restricted/unrestricted limbo, running back Brandon Jackson.

About this series

Packer Report is examining the Packers' 11 free agents.

Part 1: Bigby, Spitz, Hall

Part 2: Backup safety Smith

Part 3: Veteran ILB Wilhelm

Part 4: Star DE Jenkins

Part 5: Inconsistent G Colledge

Part 6: Erratic K Crosby

After the Packers used a third-round pick on Hawaii running back Alex Green back in April, the instant analysis was that Green would be taking Jackson's stall in the Lambeau Field locker room. After all, workhorse Ryan Grant would be returning from a season-ending injury, James Starks showed a ton of potential in the playoffs, John Kuhn showed tremendous versatility and often was used as a third-down pass blocker and Green has the size and hands to take Jackson's third-down role.

Granted, as far as second-round picks go, Jackson's been a major disappointment from a statistical perspective. Given 15 games to show he could be the featured ball-carrier, Jackson fell short. Outside of a 115-yard performance at Washington that was buoyed by a 71-yard jaunt, Jackson had only one other big game: a 99-yard effort at New England on Dec. 19. He finished with more than 100 yards of total offense in just three games, even while finishing fifth on the team with 43 receptions.

Despite frequently getting the ball on draw plays on passing downs, Jackson topped 4.0 yards per carry in just four games last season and has averaged merely 3.8 yards per carry for his career.

Still, Jackson is the type of player who — like Grant — will be appreciated only after he's gone.

The Packers' philosophy is different when it comes to running backs. Being a threat in the running game is obviously a huge asset but it's not the be-all and end-all. Just look at how the Packers brought along Starks, whose running ability was obvious from his first touch in the playoffs against Philadelphia. After missing most of the offseason work and all of training camp, Starks had to show that he wouldn't lose games before he could start winning them. In other words, could Starks be trusted not to fumble? Could he be trusted to not blow an assignment that would lead to Aaron Rodgers getting drilled by a blitzer?

There are no such concerns with Jackson. In 457 career touches, Jackson has fumbled just three times and not lost any of them. Moreover, he's never been penalized. He hasn't allowed a sack in two years as he's developed into arguably the best pass-blocking halfback in the game.

Brandon Jackson
Matthew Emmons/US Presswire
The importance of pass protection can't be overstated, especially with an MVP-caliber quarterback. It's easy to take Jackson for granted. When blitzer after blitzer after blitzer is picked up with ease, it's easy to forget that it's really not that easy. Across the league, quarterbacks are sacked — and fumble or get hurt — because running backs either blow the assignment or blow the fundamentals. Thanks in part to the steady Jackson, Rodgers was tied for the NFL lead among quarterbacks by losing just one fumble — and that came on a goal-line sneak at Atlanta rather than on a sack.

The Packers gave Jackson a tepid endorsement by giving him the original-round tender, rather than the second-round tender, as a restricted free agent. By rule, if the Packers lose Jackson, they would get only a third-round pick in return. If he winds up being unrestricted, it'll be interesting to see if the Packers make a big push to bring him back — or if Jackson would rather take his Super Bowl ring, team-first attitude and bulldog mentality to a team that wants to give him the ball.

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport.

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