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3 improvements Josh Jackson must make in 2019 for the Green Bay Packers

Heading into the 2018 NFL Draft, cornerback Josh Jackson was a highly coveted prospect with first-round upside. Luckily, for general manager Brian Gutekunst and Co., they watched Jackson fall to No. 45 overall, in turn, making him a Green Bay Packer.

In Jackson’s rookie season, he proved draft pundits right. He played in all sixteen of the Packers’ games and started ten. For the season, he compiled 49 total tackles, ten pass deflections, and a forced fumble. That high pass deflection number shouldn’t be a surprise; at Iowa, Jackson converted from wide receiver to cornerback, in turn, skyrocketing his draft stock.

Jackson showed potential as a big-bodied, starting-caliber NFL cornerback; he’s a fluid athlete, has good route anticipation, and plays the ball well. But, despite seeing considerable playing time and showing promise, Jackson has a ways to go. It shows in his lowly 60.3 Pro Football Focus grade.  But, here are three things the cornerback improve upon to get that grade up.

3. Better Tackling

Transitioning from wide receiver to cornerback is always tough. It shows in multiple ways, but one of the most common is in poor tackling. Jackson is no exception to this notion, and he showed why in his rookie year. Far too often, the Packers found the cornerback approaching a ball-carrier without proper form or taking aggressive angles.

Part of Jackson’s struggle to tackle well stems for his lack of size. Although he measures in at a solid 6-foot-1, his combine weight was just 196-pounds.  Luckily, at OTA’s Jackson acknowledged his lack of size and said he was bulking up, saying;

“I’ve just tried to focus on my strength and conditioning and just working on self-improvement.”

2. Improve Technique

Jackson gave up a lot of big plays last year. Though he has that ‘ball-hawking’ demeanor, he often found himself slipping due to sloppy footwork and a general lack of awareness. The cornerback struggled to use his length, hands, and height to his advantage. Too often wide receivers exploited his improper steps and all-over-the-place hand usage.

If Jackson had good long-speed, this wouldn’t be as big of a problem as it is. But, he doesn’t, he ran the 40-yard-dash in 4.54 seconds. For him to negate that lack of speed, his footwork and hand usage will need to speed up and become more calculated. This becomes truer considering that the Packers will likely run a lot of man coverage next season.

1. Get Less Grabby, and More Controlled

Jackson’s grabbiness directly correlates to his lack of technique. But, it still can’t be excused. When he lost his receiver, his game lacked all control, and it led to his fair share of penalties. In ’18, Jackson racked up eight yellow flags for a total of 75 yards. Three of those penalties came from defensive holding, one came from unnecessary roughness, and another from an illegal block.

Jackson plays hard, that’s apparent. But, he needs to settle down and defend with his feet and brain more so than his hands. However, there is hope that he can improve in this area of his game. Rookie cornerbacks often have a tough time acclimating to NFL speed and receiving talent. Jackson, as a receiver to cornerback convert, epitomizes that statement. If the game can slow down for him, he’ll be just fine.