It’s rather difficult to think of another player in Houston Texans franchise history that has had quite a turnaround in just two short seasons. Once thought of by the fan base as the scourge of the team, Kareem Jackson has transformed the last two seasons under the tutelage of defensive guru Wade Phillips and the mentorship of Johnathan Joseph from liability to dependable.
As a first-round selection in the NFL, many expectations are going to be thrust upon you. But for Jackson, many were ready to write him off as a bust after just one season. In hindsight, it’s really tough to blame him for his rough start. The team threw him into the fire as a rookie with a group that was historically one of the worst defenses of all time. In the process, he was left to chew the wake of greats like Reggie Wayne and guys that casual fans had never heard of like Seyi Ajirotutu.
Yes, as far as nightmare rookie seasons go, Jackson has to rank pretty high on the list. This left many to wonder if even Phillips had enough magic in him to turn mincemeat into steak. He decided to let Jackson split time with Jason Allen after the free agent acquisition of Joseph, and let him learn the role slowly. He showed constant improvement, even if the unforgiving fans (myself included) were too stubborn to see it.
When Allen departed via free agency in 2012, Jackson took the reins as cornerback No. 2 and hit his stride. With a career-high four interceptions and one returned for a touchdown, Jackson went from just a bad contract to one of the more reliable No. 2 corners in the league.
Of course, most of the praise has been heaped onto Phillips for Jackson’s remarkable turnaround. It’s hard to deny the defensive wizard the old man is. But a large portion of the credit needs to be given to Johnathan Joseph. That has become a signing that has paid off in more ways than one. Not only is he one of the top five cover corners in the game, but there wasn’t a better guy for Jackson to learn from. The proof is in the product.
So, what’s in store for Jackson in 2013? Its hard to imagine him improving even more, but with it being a contract year, it won’t be from a lack of effort. Houston has shown the courage to let their free agents walk over the last two seasons and if Jackson prices himself out of their range with new deals for Brian Cushing and J.J. Watt coming up, they could be in trouble if Brandon Harris and Roc Carmichael continue to disappoint.
One of the things I have grown to really like about Jackson is his mean streak. We have discussed on our podcast numerous times that we don’t particularly like the lack of an attitude from the defense over the past couple of years. With Ed Reed and D.J. Swearinger coming on board, it seems that this has been noticed by the team as well. These three guys will punch you in the mouth and then tell you all about it afterwards. Look for this secondary to draw some penalty flags in 2013. It may cost them 10 yards here and 15 there, but the tone will be set and that is something that was sorely lacking from the 2012 group.
For Jackson, his resiliency and hard work led him here. Most guys in his situation in 2010 would have buckled and turned on the fans and his teammates. But he stuck with it and has now become one of the pending free agents that the fan base is already worried about losing.
Kind of a hard situation to imagine that just two years ago at this time, we were all debating if Phillips could find a way to “hide” Kareem on defense.