On Brandon Jackson
This offseason must be a difficult one for Brandon Jackson. The coaching staff reportedly is extremely high on James Starks. Ryan Grant is a proven, if unspectacular, workhorse running back and returns expecting to reclaim his carries. John Kuhn carved himself a role.
I believe Brandon Jackson is a good football player who has a solid career ahead of him, with Green Bay or elsewhere. From his twitter to his epic post-game interview regarding his pride in his Super Bowl winning uniform, Brandon Jackson seems to be a team player and good person.
His frustration at not becoming the featured back for the Packers must be killing him, but he has always been gracious in face of the media. He’s now switched agents to Drew Rosenhaus. In all likelihood, he’ll want to go to a team that will give him more carries than will be available to him in Green Bay. On the other hand, he may be more valuable to Green Bay than to other teams out there.
Should he have been a 2nd round draft pick? Absolutely not. The speed of the NFL seems to be too much for his tap-dancing running style. He rarely gets a “head of steam” going, so by the time he gets to the hole he doesn’t have the force to blast through it and carry a defender. He just doesn’t stick a foot in the dirt and cut up field with the necessary burst. Because of his style, he can’t return punts or kickoffs – in these positions you need to pick a seam and go.
However, when he gets the ball in open space, his sidestep can make people look silly. He can catch a release valve and turn it into a conversion. He keeps his quarterback clean by selling out on every blitz pickup.
It’s not Brandon’s fault that he isn’t capable of being a featured back. He didn’t draft himself in the 2nd round. And to his great credit he’s worked hard, overachieved and become a very good role player. In the right situations, you trust him to keep your franchise quarterback safe, and to have the hands to catch check down passes and make the first guy miss after the catch. That’s not nothing.
But you don’t trust him to run 20 times and approach 5 yards/carry consistently. You don’t trust him to break a run and go the distance. You don’t trust him to kill the clock by running when the other team knows it is coming. You don’t trust that the strong safety is going to hesitate for a split second, never mind commit to the box. That’s featured back stuff.
So, it isn’t Brandon’s fault that he seems miscast as a featured back. And since he seems such a genuine, innocent human being in all of his interviews, it’s natural to pull for him to succeed. I do.
And occasionally, he steps up and breaks Urlacher’s ankles on a cutback, and it makes us all feel like our BJax did something well.
In the end, however, this will come down to what other teams think his value is. Defenses don’t respect him in short yardage, so he’s limited to obvious passing downs. He won’t be returning punts or kicks. His new agent should be able to tell him what his value is to other teams, and there’ll be a roster spot for him on a lot of clubs, but he’s unlikely to get a shot at 20 carries per game.
Rather, it’s far more likely that he’ll realize that he’ll be a quality backup for another team. Nobody ever knows what Ted Thompson will do in the draft, but it’s likely he’s looking at running backs that can also return kicks, or third-down and short options that can still pick up the blitz. These could also be found in free agency. Given the scarcity of roster spots likely to be available next season, and the extremely limited role Jackson provides the Packers, I see him on another team next season. And I’ll be pulling for him.