In his second NFL game, Jackson didn't display flashy Reggie Bush-electricity in the open field. Instead the soft-spoken rookie foreshadowed the ability to be a reliable two-down back primed to handle 20 carries a game. More importantly, he excelled on the team's staple zone-blocking plays.
Mike McCarthy ensured Jackson got plenty of carries with the first team offense against Seattle's first team defense. Jackson didn't crack open a run longer than nine yards. He rushed for 54 yards the hard way, methodically wearing down Seattle in a 48-13 romp. On 13 carries in two quarters of work, Jackson made a statement.
You don't need to be a Harvard Mathematics major to realize that over four quarters Jackson's number scream, "Start Me!"
Here is an isolated breakdown on Jackson during the six drives that he played against Seattle:
1st Drive (3 plays, 1 yard, 1:11 eclipsed)
The Packers' first-team offense fell into a temporary Pittsburgh hangover early against the ‘Hawks, starting the game on this three-and-out.
Jackson was only involved in one play. Following a Mark Tauscher holding penalty (you see more UFOs than those) Green Bay faced a 2nd and 16 and lined up in a king right I formation (FB Korey Hall off-set right). Jackson took a handoff designed to go inside Tauscher's left hip, the lane was plugged so the rookie bounced the play outside. He beat linebacker Kevin Bentley to the corner, gaining seven yards on a run bound to go for only three.
2nd Drive (12 plays, 47 yards, 4:54)
Jackson has been grilled at times for poor technique on pass protection by the media and coaches alike.
That criticism will cool off.
On the Packers' 12-play second drive, Jackson combined improved technique with fearlessness to make three key pickup blocks on two of the league's best defensive players. Over the nine other plays, Jackson was used in several roles. He was a rusher, a route runner, and a decoy. Jackson is gaining a deep confidence in the offense and its intricacies.
Green Bay opened on first down in shotgun. Jackson motioned left, split wide (drawing a defensive back away from the middle), and ran a streak, clearing space for Bubba Franks to catch a four-yard pass from Favre (remember this). The ensuing play, lined up in the ‘I,' Jackson tucked his head and bulled forward for four yards. No dancing, just positive yardage. McCarthy inserted Noah Herron for third downs most of the night, but on this 3rd and 2, Jackson stayed in.
Once again he quietly lent Franks a helping hand. The rookie made a cut block on Pro Bowl defensive end Patrick Kerney, allowing Favre to find Franks for 10 yards. Such a block on someone who has 58 career sacks will no doubt allow McCarthy to sleep a lot better at night. Instant Nyquil.
Two plays later Jackson did it again, this time against the 2005 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. Stamina isn't a problem for this high draft pick.
On 2nd and 7 from Seattle's 41-yard line, Jackson lined up as the single back and kept Lofa Tatupu out of the pocket with a firm pass block. And you guessed it. Bubba benefited. Franks caught another Favre pass, this one for eight yards.
Jackson didn't have time for a squirt of Gatorade.
In a semi hurry up tempo, the offense quickly got to the line and Jackson had his best run of the night. If he ever needs a blueprint for the zone blocking scheme, RB coach Edgar Bennett will dig up the film from Saturday's game and point to this play. Positioned as the single back, Jackson took the ball left, glanced toward the middle for Jason Spitz, saw No. 72, veered his body right, and slid underneath Spitz for nine yards. Jackson ran downhill in a slanting motion - a style Terrell Davis revolutionized in Alex Gibbs' genius invention.
Later in the drive the Cornhusker had runs of two and three yards, while also making a 2nd down blitz pickup block on Tatupu. Unfortunately Seattle released the hounds on a bonzai blitz that play as Julian Peterson batted down Favre's pass. Herron replaced Jackson on the following 3rd down and Favre forced a throw to Donald Lee on a deep post, forcing the Packers to settle on a 37-yard Mason Crosby field goal.
3rd Drive (2 plays, 7 yards, 0:57)
Following Will Blackmon's 83-yard kickoff return, McCarthy didn't get cute. Maybe visions of Buffalo's Ko Simpson intercepting an end zone pass from Favre entered his mind. Or maybe he just wanted to see Jackson in a goal line back. Either way, Jackson continued to unleash his inner-bruiser.
On 1st and goal, he started left, took a Fred Taylor-hop step right and lowered his shoulder into Peterson and safety Brian Russell for five yards. Then at the one, he ducked between Scott Wells and Daryn Colledge and bowled over the plane for the score. This is one major advantage of being a short back with V8 leg drive. In short yardage situations, the stocky Jackson is small enough to poke through small seams and still strong enough to push forward.
4th Drive (5 plays, 51 yards, 1:38)
If there is one play the Packers must reintroduce to the offense, it's the screen pass. Edgar Bennett, Dorsey Levens, and Ahman Green regularly deflated defenses on screens in long-yardage situations. As Favre said last week, defenses knew the screen was coming and still couldn't stop it.
Jackson still needs to improve his timing on screens. He is far from reaching Green's comfort level on this classic sucker play. On 2nd and 10 in his fourth drive though, Jackson provided a glimpse. With defensive tackle Russell Davis breathing down his neck, Jackson calmly waited a split second, turned, caught Favre's dump off and scampered 11 yards.
Three plays later, Jackson had his fourth bout with pass blocking on the night. For the third time it was Tatupu. On 2nd and 8 from Seattle's 16-yard line, Tatupu blitzed and Jackson held his ground. James Jones caught the Favre drag pass, prompting Tatupu to reverse his footing and chase him.
It was too late. Jones was getting a beer spilled on him in the front row.
5th Drive (1 play)
On his fifth drive of the night, Jackson was joined by Aaron Rodgers in a shotgun backfield. A high, slippery snap sailed through Rodgers' palms, over his head. On the snap, Jackson crossed in front of Rodgers in preparation for either a screen or shovel pass but once he saw he the fumble, the rookie dived into the scrum - to no avail.
6th Drive (9 plays, 71 yards, 4:08)
Brandon Jackson's final drive of the night lifted his play count to 28 (Herron was in for four of the 32 total plays in the six drives).
Much like the preseason opener, Jackson didn't slow down with more carries. He heated up. On his nine-play sixth drive, Jackson did the same exact things he did on his overloaded second drive.
On first down, he followed Ryan Powdrell on a basic halfback lead to the right. The hole was congested yet he still salvaged three yards. Powdrell wasn't so lucky. The undrafted USC rookie fullback hurt his knee on the play and left the game.
The next down, for the third time in the game, Jackson was an effective decoy for Franks. Jackson motioned left, slid out wide and cleared a defensive back downfield. Franks caught the short pass left from Rodgers and gained nine yards.
In essence, Jackson was instrumental in each of Franks' four catches.
On his final two attempts of the night, Jackson garnered runs of five and six yards, effectively using a great seal by Hall on his final carry. Hall turned Kevin Bentley outside of the alley and Jackson hit it. On the resulting 2nd and 6, Jackson dropped a short screen pass but it was probably for the best. You could almost see saliva dripping from Rocky Bernard's mouth as he waiting at Jackson's back.
The last thing McCarthy needs is a fourth injury at running back.
No question, Ted Thompson and McCarthy are releasing a more profound sigh of relief each practice Jackson finishes as the team's starting back. Saturday night's game was further affirmation of the second round pick's progress. He is reading defenses quicker and cutting with more authority- something he provided a taste of against the Super Bowl XL champions.
Only this time it came against the starters of a defense in that same Super Bowl.
Tyler Dunne is a student at Syracuse University. He is in Green Bay covering the Packers during training camp for PackerReport.com and Packer Report magazine. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.