Jackson a changed man

Packers running back bigger, stronger and mentally prepared, says Packer Report's Todd Korth

The second time around should be a lot better than the first for running back Brandon Jackson. If his performance in the final regular season game of the 2007 season and preparation this offseason is any indication, Jackson appears to have put it together enough to contribute in a bigger way in 2008.

Not long after Jackson was selected in the second round of the 2007 NFL draft by the Packers, he was thrown into the fire due to injuries to other backs in front of him. He took most of the reps with the first team offense last season, literally learning on the run. As it turned out, Jackson struggled early on in Green Bay's offense, then missed more than a month early in the season with a shin injury, then got beat out by Ryan Grant.

By the time the end of the season rolled around, Jackson was healthy but firmly planted as a reserve, competing for playing time with Vernand Morency as a third-down back. As the Packers rested a number of starters, including Grant, in the regular season finale against Detroit, Jackson got a chance to start. He made the most of it by rushing for 113 yards on 20 carries, including a 46-yard burst. It certainly appeared that he had a much better grip on the offense and the team's zone-blocking scheme than he did in August and September.

The game appeared to have slowed down a little for the soft-spoken former University of Nebraska standout. This offseason the game has slowed that much more with his participation in the team's workout program.

"Brandon has really benefited, going all the way back to training camp, from all of the reps he was able to get at a young age," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "I think now he probably chuckles at that experience because everything came so fast for him and he was thrown into a situation where he was not able to probably learn our offense in a progression like most young guys. I think we are now seeing the benefits of it. He is one of those rare players that has so much natural ability, both in the weight room and on the playing field and he is taking full advantage of it. I think he'll be an impact player for us on special teams, and he looks very comfortable in all aspects of our offense. Very pleased with the progress that Brandon has made, and he really looks comfortable out there."

Jackson feels the same. He remained in Green Bay this off-season, like last year, but was able to take his experience from last year and use it in his preparations for the team's upcoming training camp. The 22-year-old is visibly stronger. Mentally tougher, too, he says.

With Grant sitting out of the team's recent Organized Team Activities practices and likely the upcoming minicamp, Jackson again has been working with the first-team offense.

Inbetween workouts and practices this offseason, Jackson says he has been studying plays more and working out a little, even when the rest of his teammates are off and away from the facilities at Lambeau Field.

"I've had a year under my belt and I'm ready," Jackson said last week. "It was tough last year missing out on all the fun, the coaching."

Jackson may have missed out on playing time, but give him the edge on other backs this season as Grant's top backup. The longer Grant is unable to come to terms of a deal with the Packers, the more Jackson will learn and benefit.

Jackson will be pushed for a roster spot by Morency, Noah Herron and DeShawn Wynn, but he has the edge over all three at this point. And his work this offseason may have helped him most.

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