Malik Jackson didn’t hesitate.
Since he’s never been seriously injured, Jackson admitted getting benched last season was the toughest thing he’s had to endure in his seven-year NFL career.
Now that he’s with the Eagles, the veteran DT is ready to prove he’s still got it.
Before he was turned into a reserve player last Nov. 18, Jackson had started 66 consecutive regular season and playoff games dating back to 2014. That means he started every game for a nearly-four-year span and even became a Pro Bowler for the Jags in 2017.
So why was he benched?
At his introductory press conference in Philadelphia on Wednesday, Jackson said the coaches in Jacksonville told him he wasn’t playing well enough against the run. Jackson said he disagreed with that assessment.
“That’s all I really heard,” he said. “If you’re asking me, coming off a Pro Bowl year before, I don’t think that’s a valid excuse. Like I said, I’m not the coach. I just play.”
Jackson, 29, admitted it was very frustrating to get benched for the first time in his career. He played just 61.3 percent of the Jaguars’ defensive snaps in 2018, down from 73 percent the year before.
He tried to be a good soldier, though. He didn’t want to fuss, but he felt hurt by the organization. Jackson thought he was a part of the culture-change in Jacksonville and he felt like he was on the bench for business reasons.
So how did he deal with it?
You understand that it’s perspective, I think, for me. It’s just perspective. I’m still healthy, I can still ball, I’ll be wanted somewhere else. You just hang on to the good points. You try to stay healthy when you get the opportunities to play, because I was still playing a little bit. You just go out there and show these teams how much of a mistake they’re making and show these other teams how valuable you are.
The Eagles saw enough value in Jackson to give him a three-year contract worth $30 million. It’s not exactly the six-year, $85 million contract he got three years ago, but things have changed. Back then, he was coming off a Super Bowl title with the Broncos and his stock was peaking. This time around, he was coming off a down season in Jacksonville where he was benched halfway through.
His goal in 2018 is pretty simple: “Just to get back to where I know I can be.”
While his best position is as a 3-technique, Jackson said he’s confident playing the 1-tech or any position along the defensive line. Getting a chance to play next to Fletcher Cox ought to help him produce. Cox demands double teams on damn near every play, so Jackson will see a ton of 1-on-1 matchups while with the Eagles.
Jackson isn’t a great run-stuffing defensive tackle with his relatively slender 6-5 frame, but he can provide inside pass rush. He has 32 1/2 career sacks and had a career-high eight in 2017. The Eagles were missing that kind of pass-rush ability from the other DT throughout all of last season.
A big part of his decision to join the Eagles was the chance to play for what he thinks is the best defensive line in the league.
If Jackson returns to his Pro Bowl form, he might be right.
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