It’s a Make or Break Season for Packers CB Josh Jackson

It's a make or break season for Packers CB Josh Jackson. The former second-round pick has to show he's ready to shine in the NFL this season.

Josh Jackson showed some promise during his rookie season. The second round pick out of Iowa started 10 games and showed flashes of ability in 2018, his first season in the NFL.

But in 2019, Jackson took a big step back. After playing in 68 percent of the Packers defensive snaps in his rookie season, he fell off to just 10 percent of the snaps in his second campaign. As a rookie, Jackson made 49 tackles, broke up 10 passes and recovered a fumble. But last season, he made only 11 tackles.

Jackson didn’t play very well last year in his limited time on the field. Opposing quarterbacks completed 85.7 percent of their passes when Jackson was in coverage according to pro-football-reference.com and they had a quarterback rating of 143.7.

One reason for the stark reduction in playing time for Jackson was a foot injury he suffered in training camp. That held him back and allowed other players to pass him on the depth chart.

“I just think the setback going way back to the beginning of the year, just not being out there, got him behind,” defensive coordinator Mike Pettine said in the middle of last season. “Will Redmond and Chandon [Sullivan] both have played a lot of reps and gotten their own little niche in what they’re doing. And they’re doing a nice job on special teams as well. So that got him behind. He hasn’t really been able to overcome those guys.”

At that time, Pettine also felt Jackson was best suited to play in the slot. “Part of it too is just us trying to find a permanent home for him. Do we want him as an outside corner?” Pettine added. “He showed a lot of progress this offseason, in the beginning of the year, playing the nickel for us. That’s ultimately his best spot, which, obviously, Tramon [Williams] is entrenched there too. He’s a versatile guy, but we want to avoid him becoming the jack of all trades, master of none. He can play outside, play a little safety, play nickel. We want to find a permanent home for him.”

The nickel spot is open right now. The Packers have yet to re-sign Tramon Williams (although that remains a possibility). Chandon Sullivan and Jackson are among the top candidates to fill that position.

It was a big disappointment that Jackson was unable to beat out an undrafted player like Sullivan and a player the Packers picked up on waivers like Redmond to earn playing time. He is now entering this third NFL season and needs to prove he can establish himself as a bona fide NFL defensive back.

One issue for Jackson is his lack of top speed. His 40-time was 4.56 which is not slow but far from elite for an NFL cornerback. Jackson is better at zone coverage than man coverage which is why his best position in the NFL may be as a nickel or slot corner. He could also be well suited to play bump and run in the NFL with his long arms and physicality although he hasn’t gotten much of a chance to do that yet in Green Bay.

There are some who suggested he be moved to safety, where his lack of speed may not be as big an issue, but that would be another adjustment as Jackson would need to learn the techniques of playing a new position.

Jackson only started 14 games in college. He did not have a lot of experience so it shouldn’t be too much of a shock that he needs time to adjust to playing in the NFL. At Iowa, Jackson was a ballhawk, intercepting eight passes in his final year there and returning two of those for touchdowns. In his first two seasons in the NFL, Jackson has yet to intercept a pass. His lack of playing time in 2019 certainly contributed to that, but this season, Jackson needs to show more ball skills if he hopes to become a bigger contributor on defense.

Jackson has contributed on special teams in the past and he can help his cause to make the roster if he can contribute there again this season. His biggest moment came in Week 2 of the 2018 season when he recovered a blocked punt in the end zone to score his only NFL touchdown.

So much is at stake for Jackson this season. He can step up and become an integral part of the team this year with a strong training camp. With Kevin King’s contract up after 2020, Jackson may have an opportunity to prove he can take over as the starter in the future or at least carve out a specific role for himself on the team this season. If he falters in training camp, he may not even make the team this year and his career could be at a real crossroads.

Jackson entered the NFL with a lot of promise and potential. Unless he can show the ability to realize that talent in camp this year, his football career could be over before he ever gets the chance to thrive in the NFL.

 

You can follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers

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Comments (55)

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NickPerry's picture

June 20, 2020 at 01:33 pm

I was ecstatic the year they drafted Jackson in the 2nd round. I thought the Packers would be set for years to come with Alexander, Jackson, and Kevin King. I'm not ready to give up on Jackson though and I refuse to use his 40 time as an excuse. He's not THAT slow and with one of the better CB coaches in the NFL coming to GB this year, I'm excited to see what Jerry Grey can do with not only Jackson, but Alexander and King too.

In 2012 the Packers drafted a CB who many said was to slow because he ran a "Slower" 40 time at the combine. Clearly he wasn't since he's been a 1st team All-Pro twice and 2nd team All-Pro twice as well. Not bad for a guy who ran a 4.57 40 yard dash in spandex. Matter of fact I remember going round and round with a guy who will remain nameless about Hayward back then. Matter of fact the same dude used to say Micah Hyde was to slow too. My response was always Hyde is a FOOTBALL player and the Packers NEED guys like Hyde. Of course I was told I was uniformed and didn't know football....Hmmmm,

I'm confident Grey will find Jacksons niche in the secondary which just might be safety. Moving Jackson around to safety and Savage down in the slot at times might not be a bad way to go for the Packers in some packages. Personally I think the Packers secondary will be one of the best in the NFL this year and I think Jackson is part of the reason why.

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Oppy's picture

June 20, 2020 at 08:47 pm

C'mon, Nick, you can name the guy. It'll be fun.

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Demon's picture

June 20, 2020 at 09:07 pm

Was that the same guy that said j'mon MVS and ESB reminded him of Jerry Rice, Sterling Sharpe and Randy Moss?

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NickPerry's picture

June 21, 2020 at 03:30 am

LOL...You know him oppy, matter of fact I'm 99% sure you've had a go around with him at least once before.

Hint... He's posted under several names and LOVES to tell people they're uninformed or question if they have any knowledge at all when it comes to football and/or the Packers. Al has kicked him off this site more times than I can count but I think it's been at least 4 times since 2010 and it's always for the same thing...Bashing the hell out of people for absolutely no reason...

You HAVE to know now!

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GilMartin's picture

June 21, 2020 at 12:13 pm

I hope that Jackson responds to the new position coach and finds his role in the defense. This is going to be his last chance to step up and show what he can do. Thanks for the comment.

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greengold's picture

June 22, 2020 at 10:11 am

Nick, I think you're right on with this. Jerry Gray has got to be so stoked to have a chance to work with him to realize Josh Jackson's full potential. The ball hawking instincts cannot be taught, and he has them. Also agree 40 times are insignificant compared to game speed with helmet & pads on. Many play faster than their 40 times, and many play slower...

I like that Jackson has this opportunity to learn from one of the best in the game, and hopefully he finds his place as a productive member of this Packers secondary.

Hard to say what happens with him though, as big a fan of Jackson's that I am, as the competition is incredibly stiff in the DB room. Insane talent there, every single player - I cannot recall a deeper backfield from top to bottom. The Packers will be fine either way, but Josh Jackson turning it around in Green Bay is something I really want to see happen.

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GilMartin's picture

June 22, 2020 at 11:44 am

I would love to see it greengold. And I agree, the DB room is deep this year and that's a good thing. Thanks for commenting.

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Cheesey51's picture

June 20, 2020 at 03:57 pm

I agree with Nick Perry and hope Jackson can play for a up to his drafted potential. Wasn't his first memorable play a returned blocked punt for a TD. Jackson is a football player .I'm not concerned about his 40 speed.
Hoping the new CB coach will make him into the baller he is

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GilMartin's picture

June 21, 2020 at 12:15 pm

Thanks for the comment, Cheesey51. The potential is there, it's a question of him realizing it and finding out how he fits in

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Lphill's picture

June 20, 2020 at 04:04 pm

Jackson had 14 starts in college no way he should have been a 2 Nd round pick , I think that went to his head, I bet he doesn’t make the roster. Wasted pick

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murf7777's picture

June 20, 2020 at 05:24 pm

He had 8 Interceptions and was an all American his Jr. year and came out in the draft. He was predicted by some as a first round. Most fans thought it was a good pick at the time. You probably were one of them. Hopefully, with Grey coaching and no injuries he will turn the corner. At the time, I loved the pick and am rooting for him.

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GilMartin's picture

June 21, 2020 at 12:22 pm

I'm rooting for him too, murf7777. I hope he can put it all together. You're right, a lot of people thought he was a first round talent. Now he has one more chance to prove what he can do. Thanks for the comment.

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DenePhillips's picture

June 22, 2020 at 02:48 pm

Didn't he have the 8 interceptions because they played zone and not man-to-man coverage?

Just asking.

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Oppy's picture

June 20, 2020 at 08:52 pm

If anything, being a R2 selection hasn't gone to his head, it's intimidated him.

He has looked like he's thinking to much on the field, like a deer in the headlights. I personally think the game has been too big for him thus far.

He needs a dose of confidence in his game, he plays with hesitancy, not inflated ego, IMO. His personality is blue collar humble worker.

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Coldworld's picture

June 21, 2020 at 07:51 am

I had come to pretty much the same conclusion. Perhaps last year is a reflection of the coaches deciding that he needed time to address the mental side of the game?

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GilMartin's picture

June 21, 2020 at 12:24 pm

Very possible. Now let's see if he can do it. Thanks for the comment, Coldworld.

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GilMartin's picture

June 21, 2020 at 12:24 pm

I think it became one of those cycles where he wasn't playing so he got less confident which only made him play worse. The injury last year really did set him back. Let's see what 2020 brings. Thanks for the comment, Oppy.

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greengold's picture

June 22, 2020 at 10:16 am

Yeah, all those negatives generally compound the problem for many injured players. Look at how many people wanted vehemently to run Kevin King out of town.

Jackson is a talented player. You don't get 1st round projections without having some unique talent, unless you're a fraud like Mandarich was... or Mitch Trubisky... or, uh... maybe I should stop.

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fastmoving's picture

June 21, 2020 at 06:00 am

So give your history, its a sure thing he is on the roster the whole season.........

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GilMartin's picture

June 21, 2020 at 12:21 pm

If he washes out this year, we can start talking about a wasted pick. The 14 starts in college are not the issue, there are plenty of players who started only one season in college and went on to quality NFL careers. He needs to find his niche in the NFL and hopefully he can do that this year. Thanks for the comment, Lphill.

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murf7777's picture

June 20, 2020 at 05:25 pm

I forgot to add 2 of them were returned for TD’s. I’m sure you thought he was a dud thou!

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jannes bjornson's picture

June 20, 2020 at 05:30 pm

If Pettine goes with more zone and combo zone schemes.maybe Jackson plays to his strength? Ilked him coming out . His father's illness and death may have played on his mind.

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GilMartin's picture

June 21, 2020 at 12:26 pm

That's true, re: his dad's situation. Zone seems to be his strength, so let's see if he can find a role that plays to that strength on this team. Thanks for the comment, jannesbjornson.

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Lphill's picture

June 20, 2020 at 08:50 pm

I think he does not make the 53, we will see I didn’t like the pick then and I don’t like it now.

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splitpea1's picture

June 20, 2020 at 08:12 pm

Slot corner? I don't know--he'll have to improve on that completion percentage and especially that QB rating (143.7--yikes!) in a major way.

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Bure9620's picture

June 21, 2020 at 06:02 am

Which is why Chandon Sullivan beat him out

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GilMartin's picture

June 21, 2020 at 12:28 pm

No doubt, Bure9620. That and the training camp injury. Thanks for the comment.

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Leatherhead's picture

June 21, 2020 at 04:52 pm

Which is a good thing we didn’t expect. Which improves the quality of our depth.

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GilMartin's picture

June 21, 2020 at 12:27 pm

That was a terrible stat, but it was also on very limited numbers. Either way, you're right, he needs to improve on those numbers or he won't be back. Thanks as always for the comment, splitpea1.

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PatrickGB's picture

June 20, 2020 at 08:54 pm

Jackson’s strength is not press man coverage. He has played best in zone coverages. He is more see the ball attack the ball. It’s true that he doesn’t have elite speed. Perhaps that’s why they don’t play him a lot in zone coverages. I simply think that other DBs have done better than him. And his injury did not help his cause. I don’t see him playing the slot well. I believe he is a good corner who would do better in zone or as a safety.

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GilMartin's picture

June 21, 2020 at 12:29 pm

He may be better suited to safety, PatrickGB, I agree. But that would also require him to learn a new position, something that may take time. I hope Pettine and Grey can find a good role for him but obviously he has to earn the playing time. Thanks for commenting.

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Bearmeat's picture

June 20, 2020 at 09:18 pm

I'm no defensive expert, but it seems to me that just like Dom could never find the right position for Hyde, Heyward and Randall, Mike Pettine might be struggling with finding the right spot for Jackson. I'd wonder if he'd be a better free safety. 4.5 for a safety isn't as damaging as it is for a CB.

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Coldworld's picture

June 21, 2020 at 08:17 am

Well the problem is that it wasn’t 4.5. It was 4.56 and he was a player who had significant concerns raised about his speed by analysts going in to the testing phase. There were hopes that he would manage a 4.5 from his proponents.

Yes, Safety might be a possibility but speed is actually pretty helpful there. Savage is a 4.36, Amos 4.39 at his pro day, allaying a 4.56 at the combine and #3 last year Redmond was a 4.4.

The fact is, he would likely represent a significant reduction in range and recovery at both true safety positions. Can a player overcome that? Yes, but it takes some serious additional ability over the competition in other areas of the game.

As a center if the field corner, he actually timed faster than Sullivan (4.6), but Sullivan had truly elite explosiveness as a counter to lesser long speed. Jackson didn’t show that.

Sullivan’s former role might be his best shot now though: as Sullivan showed, it’s one where a player with excellent recognition can shine. Absent injury, he isn’t going to displace Savage or Amos and even Redmond isn’t a given. Redmond was touted as a similarly high pick with plus ball skills, before Injuries struck, who was in his first year as a safety last year as well as being a ST regular.

I just don’t see Jackson as fast or explosive enough to play the perimeter well in the NFL. His future is likely in the center or nowhere. I think he will struggle to show enough at deep safety to see the field: that leaves Sullivan’s former role.

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murf7777's picture

June 21, 2020 at 09:26 am

The man is athletic having one of the best 20 yd shuttle and vertical routes of CB’s at the combine. He ran a faster 40 at his pro day. He’s not a speedster, but many speedsters don’t react fast and are slower on the field due to that. As you stated, there is more to it then a 40 time.
I’m frustrated by his lack of PT and hope he gets a chance this year to prove his value of a 2nd round draft pick. I remember that many on this board were talking about the Packers taking him in the first round and most pundits had him pegged mid to late first round. I also remember many thought we got a steal in the 2nd as well. It could be he is or was intimidated and/or lack of proper coaching. Keeping my fingers crossed that the 3rd time is a charm and he shows the talent he had his Junior year in College.

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Leatherhead's picture

June 21, 2020 at 10:00 am

It takes 0.2 seconds to blink. So the difference between a 4.4 and. 4.6 over 40 yards in shorts is a blink of an eye. IMO, that doesn’t represent a significant reduction in range. Quick minds are always quicker than quick feet. I think Larry Bird proved that conclusively. Micah Hyde is another good example. I’d rather have a 4.6 guy who could tackle than a 4.4 guy who doesn’t

Here’s how I see the secondary at this point.

The four starters are pretty good. Sullivan looks to have the inside track at nickel. Green looks like our #3 safety. Redmond should make the 53.

That leaves room for a safety, a corner, and a swing guy on the 53. IMO, Jackson is safe unless he stinks it up in training camp.

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Coldworld's picture

June 21, 2020 at 03:37 pm

I don’t disagree on the openings.

Jackson’s pro day 40 was an average of 4.53, so allowing for the usual half second, not much of a reassurance in terms of speed. Rivals.com reported that Jackson clocked in with 40-yard times of 4.52 and 4.54 seconds compared to 4.56 and 4.60 at the combine.

He did do much better in short area drills though. That’s why I think Sullivan’s former position is his route in to unlocking his ball skills. As you state, there is an opening there that seems ideally suited to him. If he can’t seize it, something else is wrong.

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Leatherhead's picture

June 21, 2020 at 04:49 pm

I kind of wonder why we couldn’t put Jackson at deep safety on 3rd and must pass so that Amos could be more involved in guarding the first down marker.

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Bearmeat's picture

June 21, 2020 at 12:06 pm

What about Richard Sherman? He's made a career at being strong at the point of attack and having elite ball skills without good deep speed. Whereas in the middle of the field, WRs tend to be shifter, smaller, faster, and they have a two way go. When we drafted Jackson, I was thinking Josh Jackson would be a better boundary CB than nickel CB. Apparently, Pettine thinks differently. It's his job. He's the pro. I just hope he's not wrong like Dom was about solo many players.

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Coldworld's picture

June 21, 2020 at 03:42 pm

Sherman is a different beast surely. He is 6.3 and over 200 lbs entering the league. Not sure he is a viable comparative or model for Jackson. Ironically, he is much more similar to Sullivan in terms of physical build and measurables.

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Bearmeat's picture

June 21, 2020 at 05:46 pm

Except a round 2 pick rather than UDFA.. 2018 draft.. yuck.

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Coldworld's picture

June 21, 2020 at 07:17 pm

But a UDFA who perhaps shouldn’t have been based on last year?

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GilMartin's picture

June 21, 2020 at 12:33 pm

In order to overcome his lack of speed, he'll have to anticipate well, use his head and diagnose plays quickly. We'll see if he can do that. Hopefully, they find the right role for him. Thanks for commenting, Coldworld.

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GilMartin's picture

June 21, 2020 at 12:31 pm

Sometimes a player just isn't a good fit in a particular system and that may be the problem with Jackson. We'll see if Pettine and Grey can find the right role for him and then if he can fill it. Fingers crossed, he seems like a good guy. Thanks for the comment, Bearmeat.

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NickPerry's picture

June 21, 2020 at 03:33 am

Thinking the same thing BM...I'd like to see him used at safety and move Savage down to cover the slot from time to time. I think Savage could thrive in the slot.

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GilMartin's picture

June 21, 2020 at 12:34 pm

There has been some talk of using Savage in the slot sometimes. Pettine loves to disguise his coverages and having guys who can play multiple roles definitely helps in that regard. Keeps the offenses guessing. Thanks for the comment.

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Rossonero's picture

June 21, 2020 at 08:49 am

I'm glad Pettine made the comment about not making Jackson a "jack of all trades, master of none." Moving a player around to too many positions can be overwhelming. Do what the Patriots -- find what the player is good at, and exploit that. In years past, I've seen the coaching staff try to ram a square peg into a round hole. Hopefully under LaFleur, Pettine and new coach Jerry Grey, Jackson will finally break his duck.

If COVID-19 limits Jackson's training camp work, that won't help him though.

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GilMartin's picture

June 21, 2020 at 12:35 pm

Yeah, limited training camps won't help anybody trying to make a big impression on the coaching staff. I hope Pettine and Grey can find his best role and put him in a position to succeed. Then it's up to him to do it. Thanks for the comment, Rossonero.

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Rossonero's picture

June 21, 2020 at 09:53 pm

You're welcome. Thanks for the article. Keep the content comin!

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GilMartin's picture

June 22, 2020 at 11:46 am

Thanks.

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stockholder's picture

June 21, 2020 at 09:12 am

Were waiting around for what? He's not got the speed, coverage, or press for a top CB. His Cap hit, and salary can be used elsewhere. Meaning; I'd use it for King. Even the resigning of Jones. Speed is everything in the NFL. Forget moving him around. The smart move is to move him off the team. The sooner the better. The packers are losing money. And if he can do better elsewhere good for him. He doesn't fit in Green Bay. The solution is simple. Move on!

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GilMartin's picture

June 21, 2020 at 12:37 pm

I think they will move on if he doesn't show something in training camp. If he does make the team as a special teams player and backup, this would be his last year to do that before he gets too expensive to keep. Thanks for the comment, stockholder.

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greengold's picture

June 22, 2020 at 10:23 am

Yeah, I'm sure Gutekunst won't hesitate if Josh Jackson doesn't come around. The margin is too tight. There will be many talented players released by the Packers at roster cutdown. They really are loaded. Not a bad problem to have.

You're right to bring up his salary slotting too, as that definitely will factor in. I believe Burks is in the exact same boat, possibly out of town. Tough roster decisions will loom all over at 1265.

I really, really like Josh Jackson, and hope he lights it up with the Packers this season. If he doesn't, someone else will. That's for sure. Huge competition at DB in GB.

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nostradanus's picture

June 21, 2020 at 09:28 am

I like Jackson and I would sure hate to see another second round pick wasted. Maybe the reason the Packers didn’t resign Tramon Williams is they figured it was time to let Jackson sink or swim at the nickel corner back position. Jackson is only on year three of a rookie contract which is very affordable and way more affordable than Tramon Williams would be. Jackson is a ball hawk and might thrive at the nickel position. I hope he gets a chance to prove his worth.

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GilMartin's picture

June 21, 2020 at 12:38 pm

I hope so, too, nostradanus, he seems like a good kid. The ball hawking skills were there in college. Time for him to show what he can do in the NFL. Thanks for the comment, always good to hear from you.

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Leatherhead's picture

June 21, 2020 at 06:56 pm

And truthfully, Tramon isn’t a particularly vigorous rn defender or tackler. It’d probably be better if we could move on from Tramon.

I see Jackson as more of a deep safety who has the entire play in front of him.

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