Lawrence Jackson rushed at the chance to change schemes, hoping that will provide the revival his career needs.
Despite having three quality defensive ends in front of him – Jared Allen, Brian Robison and Everson Griffen – Jackson signed with the Minnesota Vikings because their defensive scheme would put him closer to the quarterback.
"I felt the scheme was better suited for my skill set than the wide 9 at this point in my career. I just felt like there was a good fit," Jackson said, referring to how wide he was asked to line up with the Detroit Lions.
"I feel like I'm not the fastest guy in the world, for sure. Being so wide, in that wide 9, as soon as you get to the quarterback, he's getting rid of the ball. Being closer to the guy should allow me to use some of the things that made me what I was coming out of college and things like that."
Jackson spent the last three seasons with the Lions, where he averaged playing in 12 games a year, but didn't start any, and had 13 sacks over that three-year period. Over the first two years of his career, he started 24 games with the Seattle Seahawks, where he had 6½ sacks.
It's clear he wasn't thrilled with how he was used in Detroit.
"We had the lowest rate of inside moves, pass rusher-wise. That makes things harder on you, in terms of offensive tackles kind of knowing what you're going to do," Jackson said. "Out there, it can take you three or four steps before you even get into hand-fighting range with a guy, if they're playing ahead of the chains and I'm playing against the best tackle every week. It was something that I was looking to change."
He also is hoping to be used mostly on the left side of the line, where Robison is the starter. That's where Jackson was most productive.
"If you look back at my first six games, my second year in Seattle, and the last six games, my first year in Detroit, it's like 10, 10½ sacks came from left defensive end. It's taken me two times as many snaps to get half as many sacks on the right side. I think playing on the left side is huge for me," he said.
For now, Jackson is expecting a rotational role and might be a candidate to slide inside on passing downs, too.
Like Allen, Robison and Griffen, Jackson is also scheduled to be a free agent after the 2013 season. He signed only a one-year, $780,000 contract that included a $65,000 signing bonus.
Jackson said he got the "same exact offer" from Detroit as free agency opened in March, but after three years in the Lions' scheme, "it was time for a change." Dallas and Oakland also showed an interest but wanted to wait until after the draft to make a decision.
So, Jackson did his homework on the Vikings and said the expiring contracts of their top three defensive ends played a factor in his decision. Mostly though, it was how the Vikings use their defensive ends that attracted him to Minnesota.
"I just felt like it was a good fit for my skill set. You look at what their three ends did last year, it was like 32 sacks between them," he said. "Our guys (in Detroit), it was probably not even 20. That was a huge factor, and being able to watch Jared Allen every day, seeing what makes him great, was also a huge factor."
"… Knowing what type of guys they're looking for, for their program, I feel like I fit that – high-character guy, hard worker. I feel like I can play, and from what I understand, they like those kinds of guys."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
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