Last season was supposed to be a redemption year for Malik Jackson.
He lasted 32 snaps.
Jackson went down in the season opener against Washington with a Lisfranc injury that required surgery and he missed the rest of the 2019 campaign. It wasn’t how anyone envisioned his first season with the Eagles after he signed a three-year, $30 million contract last March.
Jackson was a Pro Bowler with the Jaguars back in 2017, but he got benched in Jacksonville in 2018 and got hurt with the Eagles in 2019.
Now, he’s 30, coming off two disappointing years and a significant surgery. Jackson is a smart guy. He knows the situation.
“I have some ground to make up, especially if I can go back all the way to my last year in Jacksonville,” Jackson said. “Got benched a little bit there, then came here and got injured. I'm not gonna say they forgot about me, but I think I just have some ground to make up and make people remember.”
Jackson has something to prove in 2020 and he’s already playing like it. The Eagles have had five days of practice since they put on pads and Jackson has been one of the best players on the field.
On Friday, in the most intense sessions of the summer, Jackson scored a hat trick, picking up three sacks. He looks strong, he looks healthy, he looks like he’s going to be able to make a difference this season.
That’s good news because Javon Hargrave is already hurt. The Eagles’ big free agent acquisition already has a pec strain and is out indefinitely, although the Eagles are hopeful he’ll be ready by Week 1.
“As far as Javon goes, you know, it sucks but that's the name of the game,” Jackson said. “And I told him, at least he can come back. Don’t come to me with no stories. I've lost a year. But I know he's a strong guy, he's a fun guy, he's working hard mentally, and when he comes back, he's gonna be great.”
When Hargrave is back, the Eagles will have a formidable group of interior pass rushers with Fletcher Cox, Hargrave, Jackson and Hassan Ridgeway. That is one of the best groups of defensive tackles in the entire NFL and it’s a group that will need to lead Jim Schwartz’s defense in 2020.
Jackson said the silver lining with last year’s injury was that it allowed him to step away from the game briefly and spend time with his children and learn more about himself as a person, not just a football player. He didn’t want to take a break, but since he got one, he made the most of it.
But now he’s back and ready to roll.
Last summer, Cox was getting over an injury of his own in training camp, so Jackson and Cox haven’t really gotten to work much together. They’re doing that this summer in training camp.
“It's nice to be able to work with Fletch,” Jackson said. “It’s exciting. To sit there for a year and really just daydream about it and think about it, and now that I'm here, I'm just trying to stay healthy, be consistent and get back to the way I was, possibly even 110% better.”