From the moment he first stepped onto a football field wearing a Hurricanes’ uniform, Joe Jackson was projected to be the next star pass rusher from The U to go the NFL. After three seasons in which he led the Hurricanes in sacks, Jackson sets his sights on dominating the NFL.
Noted for his pass rushing instinct and ability, the Gulliver Prep graduate applied himself to become a good run defender to round out his game. A blend of speed and power at 6’5”, 265 pounds, Jackson was one of the most dynamic weapons on a talent-rich Hurricane defense.
So why are we bothering to watch film? Well, aside from poking holes in his game — there are always concerns that need to be addressed regarding any prospect — Jackson remains a blue chip bargain for all 32 teams this spring. We watched the highlights and game film from the 2018 season to get a better understanding of Jackson, the player. Here’s what we found out.
- Works the outside shoulder of the offensive tackle of UNC to get to the QB. A coverage, sack, Jackson keeps working through the block to pick up the sack and force the fumble.
- Does a decent job of working his hands against FSU OT to pick up a sack late in the 4th qtr
- Wins with a shoulder dip, rip, and speed rush.
- Good closing speed on Duke QB Daniel Jones when he rolled out. Able to make shoestring tackle.
- Set the edge well late against GT to keep the Canes in the game.
- Demonstrates explosion against the Hokies OT that was caught flat-footed on his way to a sack.
- Angle of pursuit helps him coral QBs in the backfield consistently.
- Gets his hands up in the passing lane when he feels that he won’t make it before the pass is thrown.
- Loves to rip and lean into the blocker as he rounds his way towards the QB.
- Relentless motor. Even after he’s is walled off early in the play, he keeps moving his legs and makes sure to keep vision on the ball-handler. Illustrating that he is truly never out of a play.
- Fights hard through double-teams, careen forward to maintain gap integrity.
- Works his hands at point of attack to shed blockers.
- Lets offensive tackles get too much into his chest, stunting his rush.
- Has explosion off the snap, but appears to get flustered if he does not find success off of first move.
- Plays with a high pad level that could lead to him getting out leveraged by athletic tackles.
- Posses few counters, but his repertoire will only expand at the next level.
After a successful career for the Hurricanes, Joe Jackson is taking his pass-rushing skills to the NFL. pic.twitter.com/XEHzSdJ0IY— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) February 18, 2019
Joe Jackson displays the type of talent you’d think every NFL team would covet. He has size, power, potential and collegiate production that should cement him as a bonafide stud entering the league. As it has been pointed out in previous months, this is a deep draft in terms of blue chip talent along the defensive line. In my estimation, Jackson works best as a traditional 4-3 defensive end that sets the edge and pins his ears back on later downs to light a fire under passers.
The big concern for his future employer will be consistency. How can the team’s best pass rusher have questions around consistency? It sounds hypocritical, but those worries are warranted. It’s normal for a player to fall in a rut, but, in 2018, there was a stretch where Jackson didn’t find fruit in the backfield. Coincidentally enough, during Miami’s four-game losing streak, Jackson produced two tackles-for-loss in that time. For the average player, that’s not a bad number… but the expectations are higher in Miami, as they are for Joe Jackson.
However, Jackson’s efficiency at causing chaos is reflected on the stat sheet. After digging into film, it’s clear that Joe Jack is as explosive, if not more, than the stats show. Never relying solely on his natural talent, the former Hurricane defensive end elevated his game to become a more rounded player in his time at Coral Gables. There’s little doubt from State of the U and the Canes’ faithful that Joe Jackson will be able to make the leap from Hurricane to ProCane in 2019.
What the Experts Have to Say
Jackson is an athletic prospect who has shown flashes of dominance but needs to complete his game. He must get stronger and become a better run defender, but he offers potential as a situational pass rusher early in his career.
Tony Pauline - draftanalyst.com
His “bull in a china shop” playing style may not look pretty, but it has created consistent production over the last three seasons. While his NFL-ready frame and play strength are a big plus, his lack of edge speed, bend and fluidity could cap has NFL rush success. Jackson is a natural 4-3 base end, but he may have the length and frame to handle 3-4 defensive end duties.
Round Projection: 4th round
Lance Zierlein - NFL.com
Heavy, strength-based defensive end with flashes of bend and active hands but not someone with adequate change-of-direction ability. Projects best as a strongside edge setter.
CBS Sport Staff
A two-year starter at Miami, Jackson lined up at right defensive end in the Hurricanes’ four-man front. He was consistently productive in his three seasons at Miami and was one of only seven active FBS players in 2018 with at least 24.0 career sacks. Although his take-on and placement skills are subpar, Jackson is a power rusher who wins with body-to-body combat. He flashes quickness, but isn’t a burst player and there isn’t anything diverse or creative about his rush sequence. Overall, Jackson rushes tall and stiff with little semblance of a back-up plan, but he is naturally powerful with the length and baseline traits to develop into an NFL starter in the right situation.
Round Projection —5th round
Dane Brugler — The Athletic
Jackson’s 85.5 pass-rush grade in 2018 ranked tied for 14th in the class. He totaled 54 pressures across 286 pass-rush snaps and ranked eighth in pass-rush win percentage (21.7%) among qualifiers.
Pro Football Focus
Joe Jackson has great size (6’4”, 275 lbs) and, more importantly, strength for his position. His transition to the NFL will be much more effective in a 4-3 defense with the option to kick inside on passing downs. We view him as a 4-3 end because he hasn’t shown the kind of athletic ability to be a stand-up edge-rusher.
Round Projection: 3rd round
Matt Miller — Bleacher Report
IT’S ALWAYS ABOUT THE U!