Texans cornerback Kareem Jackson made a spectacular play in practice on Tuesday morning at the Methodist Training Center.
Quarterback Matt Schaub
dropped back to pass and heaved a ball to the end zone. Jackson leapt
high in the air to tip the ball with his right hand, then corralled it
for a one-handed interception.
It was just one play, but it was
representative of the progress that the much-maligned Jackson has made
entering his third NFL season.
“This time last year, he wouldn’t
have pulled the trigger to make that play,” Texans defensive backs coach
Vance Joseph said. “But now he’s feeling confident enough where he
knows what he’s looking at, he’s experienced enough to go, ‘You know
something, I see it; I’m going to go get it.’ That’s encouraging for me
Jackson has been vilified by Texans fans and media for
the last two years, perhaps more than any other player. A first-round
draft pick out of Alabama in 2010, he was on the wrong end of numerous
big plays as a rookie, becoming the poster child for a defense that
ranked 32nd against the pass.
In his second season, Jackson
started 13 games as the Texans improved to third against the pass under
new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. He improved his technique under
Phillips and Joseph. He gave up far fewer big plays.
That improvement has carried over into the offseason.
a much better player right now,” Texans coach Gary Kubiak said on
Tuesday.”He’s much more comfortable in Wade’s system, confident. I think
Kareem’s really improved as a player, and it’s all about confidence
with him, too.”
The biggest remaining area of improvement for
Jackson is turning his head around to make plays on the ball. He had
just six passes defensed last season, one less than Texans linebacker Connor Barwin. He had one interception.
the Texans’ preseason opener at Carolina on Saturday, Jackson ended the
Panthers’ first series by batting down a pass from Cam Newton to
Brandon LaFell on third-and-short. The fact Joseph was not satisfied
with the result – he expected Jackson to make an interception – is
another indication of how far Jackson has come.
“He’s improved so
much from the spring to the fall,” Joseph said. “His technique is
really, really good. His confidence is at an all-time high. He’s making
plays on the ball. His next level is to make the big plays. He was solid
last year – good player, solid – but now he has to make more big plays
for us. That play he made today was a great play. The one he didn’t make
Saturday, we can’t do. We’ve got to make those plays.”
Pro Bowl cornerback Johnathan Joseph,
who has been a mentor of sorts to Jackson since signing with the Texans
in 2011, said Jackson has made "tremendous strides" this offseason.
first time we had a chance to come out here in OTAs back in the spring,
his first period, he went out there, stayed square in his backpedal,"
Joseph said. "Things they were preaching to him all year long, and he
came right out there the first day and just did it the correct way.
Everybody in the meeting room, when we saw it, we kind of gave him a
round of applause, because that shows your progression or shows you’re
maturing on and off the field to take things that were taught to you
last year and bring it right back in the spring from the time-off period
that we had.
“Coming into training camp, they were talking about
‘Make more big plays,’ and today, he comes up with a one-handed
interception. So it’s just things like that that you want to see him
take that next step in and have those progressions.”
said he tries to take what he has learned from Johnathan Joseph, Vance
Joseph and film study and transfer it to the field. So far, it has paid
“I’m a lot closer in making plays and
breaking on the ball a lot better,” he said. “I’m seeing things out
there, recognizing formations, recognizing routes, recognizing receiver
stems and stuff. Once I’m able to recognize those things, I’m able to
get a jump on the ball.”
Vance Joseph said that improvement is part of the natural progression of a cornerback entering his third season in the NFL.
a rookie, if he wasn’t ready to play, he shouldn’t have played,
probably,” Joseph said. “But he was forced to play. He took some lumps,
but he’s been so resilient. That’s why he’s my favorite guy, because
he’s tough. He’s mentally tough. Most guys would’ve folded and went
away, but he kept battling, he kept getting better. He heard the
critics, but he kept working.”
Said Jackson: “Everybody in their
life has been through some adversity at some point. If it don’t kill
you, it’ll make you stronger. I don’t think anything out here’ll kill
me, so for me to kind of fight through that adversity, now, to look back
on it, it definitely made me a stronger man and a stronger player.”
props to HoustonTexans.com for the info