Jackson puts potential on display

Rookie running back finally validates why Packers picked him high in NFL draft

Brandon Jackson emerged from the showers and walked to his locker in the Packers' locker room after Sunday's 34-13 win, and waiting for him was a pack of media. This is how it was supposed to be all season for the second-round draft pick from Nebraska.

But Sunday at Lambeau Field, this was a rarity for the former Cornhusker, who has been relegated to backup status because of injury, struggles and the unexpected rise of Ryan Grant.

Jackson rushed 20 times for a career-high 113 yards against Detroit in relief of Grant, who left the game early with a stinger injury.

Jackson, for the first time in his rookie season, flashed the talent we heard he had but never saw. Afterward, Jackson with a plethora of media surrounding him, explained his big day.

"It was great getting an opportunity and rushing for 100 yards, but the most important thing was the win," said Jackson, like he's a seasoned veteran. "It was all in the line, fullbacks. Our level of competition is high every day. I thank our offensive line and fullbacks for putting on great blocks."

Grant, who said he'll be fine for the playoffs, was pleased to see Jackson have a good day.

"It was great for him," Grant said. "He did a great job. I told him to stay patient. I told him, ‘You're going to get 100 (yards).' He did a great job."

Prior to Sunday, Jackson had rushed 55 times for 154 yards for a puny 2.8 yards-per-carry average. Often during the first 15 games of the season Jackson – one which Jackson was inactive for – he looked lost, running into the backs of his blockers and seemingly never getting more yards than available.

That changed Sunday, however, especially starting the second half. Jackson almost went the distance on his first carry of the third quarter, as he recorded his season-long run of 46 yards.

"I was telling coach earlier in the first half that play was open," Jackson said. "We went back to it and gashed a big run."

That big run was rare for Jackson this season, as he has been a disappointment. He was expected to shoulder most of the rushing load this season, but never gained control of the No. 1 running back spot.

His performance this season rendered him a backup player until Sunday, when backups were going to get plenty of action in a game that meant nothing to the Packers as far as playoff position was considered.

It was a brief moment for Jackson to shine, or at least show the Packers faithful he's not the player we've seen most of the season. Then after Grant suffered his stinger in the first quarter, Jackson was called on to carry the load earlier than expected.

"They said just be ready," Jackson said. "I was ready."

Jackson's 20 carries were the most he's had since 17 attempts in Week 2. Since then, Jackson was a role player at best, rushing 17 times for 79 yards. Not only were the attempts and yards a pleasant site for the Packers, so was his 5.4 yards-per-carry average.

Jackson said Sunday was a matter of him taking a page out of Grant's book. Grant waited patiently while the likes of Jackson and seventh-round pick DeShawyn Wynn failed to secure the spot as the workhorse back. Sunday, Jackson assumed the role ... for one game.

"Basically, it's just being patient, waiting for my opportunity," Jackson said.

Jackson isn't a man of many words, but certainly this Sunday afternoon he had to relish being in spotlight. Although he's been in it before this season, albeit not always for running successfully, there had to be a level of happiness about his day.

Jackson was brought in to replace Ahman Green, the franchise's No. 2 rusher of all time, and ironically a former Cornhusker. The Packers hope he can have a similar career to Green, but for now he knows his role.

He was asked what it means for him to have this outing as the playoffs come.

"It gave me a lot of confidence," Jackson said.

Sometimes a breakout game is all a player needs to get going in his career. Grant is the perfect example. Nonetheless, Jackson knows when the postseason comes he will be the Packers' backup running back again. Still, at least he knows now he can produce when asked.

Doug Ritchay is a frequent contributor to PackerReport.com and Packer Report magazine. E-mail him at dritchay@sbcglobal.net.

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