LB Jackson Laughs Off Criticisms

The productive Maryland product is small by NFL standards for inside linebackers and doesn't have the greatest times in the 40-yard dash, but see why D'Qwell Jackson thinks he belongs as the top inside linebacker prospect in the 2006 draft.

D'Qwell Jackson has heard it so many times that he can recite the knocks on his game, the doubters who say he's too slow and too small to duplicate his college feats in the NFL.

The hard-hitting University of Maryland middle linebacker and ACC Defensive Player of the Year laughs off the criticism and focuses on intangibles that can't be measured with a stop watch, tape measure or a scale: heart, intelligence and instincts.

"I'm not the 6-foot-2, 250-pound linebacker, so I have to focus on the details that most players take for granted," said Jackson, who has relatively modest size at 6-foot, 230 pounds and posted average 40-yard dash times of 4.80 and 4.72 seconds at the scouting combine. "When I step on the field, I have to be prepared to know what plays come out of what formations. That separates you a little bit. I feel like a team that wants an inside linebacker, I should be the first one they look at."

Traditionally, inside linebackers are undervalued by the NFL and the flashy pass rushers go off the draft board first. Jackson is regarded by some analysts as the top inside linebacker with others rating him just behind Iowa linebacker Abdul Hodge.

Jackson is projected as a second-round pick, and ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper has linked him the Tennessee Titans with the 39th overall selection.

Several smaller linebackers have excelled in the middle before Jackson, including Sam Mills and Mike Singletary.

"I believe I'm strong enough," Jackson said. "I wouldn't be the first one who is 6-foot, 230 pounds to play in the NFL. If other guys have done it, I can't see why I can't."

Jackson, who said he tries to emulate Tampa Bay Buccaneers' All-Pro linebacker Derrick Brooks, visited the Titans and worked out for the Washington Redskins this month.

It's hard to argue with Jackson's impressive production for the Terrapins. A second-team All-American and a first-team all-conference selection, Jackson led the NCAA in tackles last season with 137 and recorded four sacks.

In his final college game against North Carolina State, he registered 13 tackles, two sacks and 3 ½ tackles for losses to finish his career with 447 overall tackles.

Consistency is one of Jackson's hallmarks. As a junior, he recorded 123 tackles and four sacks. As a sophomore, he posted 136 stops.

"I think he's a down-the-line prospect," Baltimore Ravens director of college scouting Eric DeCosta said. "You like his motor, you like his production. He shows up on tape and plays hard. I think he's an intriguing guy who makes a lot of plays."

Aaron Wilson covers the Ravens for Ravens Insider and the Carroll County Times in Westminster, Maryland.

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