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Scouting Jets defensive back Bennett Jackson

NFL: Preseason-Jacksonville Jaguars at Baltimore Ravens Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

With the regular season well underway, we’ve been looking at the players the Jets have added since cutdown day, continuing today with Bennett Jackson.

The 28-year old defensive back is listed at 6’0” and 192 pounds and was a sixth-round pick out of Notre Dame in 2014. Despite being in his fifth season, Jackson didn’t make his NFL debut until October, recording five tackles in four games with the Ravens. The Jets claimed him off waivers a few days ago.


Jackson was a three-star recruit out of high school, having contributed on offense, defense and special teams.

He was recruited to Notre Dame as a wide receiver in 2010 and contributed mostly on special teams as a freshman. He averaged 22.2 yards per kickoff return and racked up 10 tackles, but only got one offensive touch, a carry for a 20-yard gain.

In his sophomore season, Jackson converted to cornerback and racked up 18 tackles in a reserve role, but became a full time starter over the next two seasons. He racked up 129 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, one sack, eight pass break-ups and six interceptions in his two years as a starter.

At the end of his college career, Jackson was invited to the scouting combine and played in the East-West Shrine Game. This led to him being drafted in the sixth round by the Giants.

As a rookie, Jackson was released in final cuts and spent the 2014 season on the Giants’ practice squad, then missed the entire 2015 season after suffering a knee injury in preseason.

In 2016, Jackson was again released in final cuts and was out of the league in 2017 but signed a futures deal with the Ravens in 2018 only to again get injured in preseason. Once he was healthy again, the Ravens put him on their practice squad in November.

2019 saw him again sign a futures deal with the Ravens, but this time he was claimed by the Jets when he was released in final cuts. However, he lasted just two weeks on the active roster and then was released to the practice squad again. A month later, the Ravens poached him and he finally made his NFL debut in October. After four appearances in seven weeks, seeing action on defense and special teams, Jackson was released again and found himself back with the Jets.

Now let’s take a look at what Jackson brings to the table, divided into categories.


Jackson is somewhat undersized for a safety role and lacked strength when he entered the league with just 13 bench press reps at the combine.

Apart from the bench press, Jackson put up excellent numbers, including a 4.46 in the 40-yard dash, a 38-inch vertical and outstanding agility numbers of 4.00 in the short shuttle and 6.75 in the three-cone drill.


Having played as a wide receiver and defensive back in high school, Jackson was initially recruited as a wide receiver but became a cornerback at the end of his first year.

He then entered the NFL as a cornerback but converted to safety at the end of his first year as a pro. He’s versatile enough to play deep, in the box, in the slot or out wide.

Coverage skills

Jackson was regarded as technically raw when he entered the NFL, which is perhaps the main reason he was converted to a safety role. This basically means his coverage skills should be relatively advanced for the safety position and he’s a useless chess piece for a flexible defense.

Jackson seems to have good positional sense when ranging deep and runs well with his man in coverage. He displayed good closing speed on this interception.

Due to his lack of size, he’s not ideally equipped to cover bigger defenders and he’s inconsistent with his jam when required to play press coverage.


As noted, Jackson isn’t ideally equipped for physical coverage, but he displays good toughness, as evidenced by his junior year in college which saw him start every game despite having a torn labrum in his shoulder.

He can level some big hits at times, but hasn’t had problems with discipline as he’s only had four penalties in 19 preseason and regular season appearances, one of which was while blocking on special teams. He did have this unnecessary roughness penalty though.

Ball skills

Having previously been a wide receiver, Jackson has some good ball skills and solid hands.

He made this spectacular play in a preseason game, which shows his ability to track and locate the ball as well as his ability to come down with a contested catch.

Shockingly, this was ruled a catch by the offensive player, even after replay, despite the fact that Jackson came away with the ball. The officials ruled this to be simultaneous possession, but this was an awful call that probably would have been overturned in a regular season game.

Run defense

Jackson hasn’t contributed much as a run defender, and his size could be detrimental to his ability to get off blocks, although he had a couple of run stops in preseason action with the Giants. However, he was a productive tackler in college with five tackles for loss in his senior year alone.

On this play, he comes into the box for the stop but can’t prevent the fourth down conversion.


Scouting reports on Jackson when he entered the league indicate he can miss a lot of tackles, but he’s racked up 41 tackles in preseason and regular season action and only had this one missed tackle.


Although he only had one sack in his college career, Jackson has had some success on limited blitz attempts in preseason action. He had a few pressures and this sack.

Special teams

Special teams might be the main motivation between signing Jackson, aside from his versatility being useful for a team with a few injury issues.

He’s been consistently productive in kick coverage throughout his college and pro career. He’s been credited with six total tackles in regular and preseason action.

Although he’s never had a chance to return kicks at the NFL level, he does have some experience of this at high school and college level. While he only returned three kicks after his freshman year, he was the primary return man as a freshman, averaging 22.2 yards per return with a long of 43. He put up excellent numbers on kickoffs and punts in high school, with three total touchdowns.

Jackson has also seen action on special teams as a punt gunner and a blocker and even kicked extra points when he was in high school.


Jackson’s versatility should give him an advanced understanding of everyone’s role in the secondary, even though his instincts were regarded as more reactive than anticipatory when he first entered the league.

He shows good reading of the game here by coming up from deep to stop a third down catch shy of the marker.


Jackson is regarded as a good character with toughness and a good attitude. He was a team captain in college and obviously has a team-first attitude with his multiple position changes.


Despite having to gut it through his junior year with a torn labrum in his shoulder, Jackson played in 52 out of 52 games in his college career. However, he suffered a torn ACL at the end of his second training camp with the Giants.

Jackson was also placed on injured reserve at the end of preseason in 2018 for an undisclosed injury, but it obviously wasn’t serious because he was released from injured reserve one week later and returned to the Ravens practice squad after a few months.

Scheme Fit

With his versatility, Jackson can not only fill any role on the defense but also will appeal to Gregg Williams as the kind of player he can employ in various different ways to make his defense more flexible.

However, as noted, the main reason he’s probably been brought in is for what he can bring on special teams.

The Jets are obviously well aware of what he can do for them as they’ve brought him in twice in the space of a few months. There’s a front office connection with Chad Alexander having previously worked for the Ravens and he was a teammate of CJ Mosley and Maurice Canady.


This was a curious move when the Jets initially claimed Jackson and continues to be the second time around. 28-year olds who enter their fifth season still awaiting their NFL debut don’t usually tend to get many opportunities.

Jackson’s intangibles and versatility obviously continue to appeal to teams and the Jets clearly hope he can provide them with some depth at safety and special teams contributions.

He’s arriving at a good time because the Jets have several injury issues in the back end. If Jackson can impress, they’ll presumably look to bring him to camp next year.