It’s tough to leave a place you feel at home. That is the feeling Jonah Jackson had when after four years with the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. He really didn’t want to leave. He was a team captain, but his education took priority. He had gained Academic All Big Tenhonors and had already graduated with a degree in criminal justice.
“It came down to both education and athletics,” Jackson said. “I wanted to pursue my master’s degree somewhere else, and Rutgers didn’t have my degree at the time. So, I wanted to see what else was out there for me academically, and, athletically I just wanted to see what else the world had to offer.”
He said goodbye to everyone on Twitter and explained why he was leaving. “I love Rutgers and everything that has happened in the past four years there has made me the man I am today,” Jackson said. “And I can’t thank them enough for everything that they’ve done for me as a person, my brothers and my teammates. But, again, I just wanted to branch out and see what else is out there for me. That’s the main reason.”
It’s hard for a team first guy like Jackson to leave behind his captaincy along with everyone he knew. He would start again fresh but do whatever it took to be successful. “I have no issues playing anywhere along the line,” he said. “Wherever anybody needs me to play – wherever they feel I’ll succeed the best and in their scheme, I’m open to play wherever. Put me at quarterback and I’ll do it.”
Jackson redshirted at Rutgers in 2015. He played in all 12 games in 2016 mostly on special teams but also saw time at right guard. In 2017 he played in only 6 games with 5 starts at center. He also played at right guard. In 2018 he started 11 games at right guard. All the while he was putting up outstanding lineman grades. In his three years playing at Rutgers he was involved in 560 pass blocking snaps. He allowed 15 total pressures in the three years combined with no sacks and no hits on the QB.
Jackson moved to Ohio State for his final college season.
Jackson is a technician as a lineman. He doesn’t have the power to move people 5 yards downfield, but he does what it takes to get the job done. He has great balance with a strong, wide base, and his hand usage is top 5 in this draft class. He is a smart kid. He works to understand defenses, sees twists, blitzes, and stunts well.
This first clip is of the first snap of the game against Michigan State who is in a base 4-3 defense. The call is just a play action pass with the quarterback hitting the slot receiver in the flat, It is nice and easy, a simple play to get the QB in rhythm and gain a few yards to get things rolling. Jackson is the left guard #73.
Sometimes things don’t go as planned. Michigan State blitzes two linebackers then the corner undercuts the route in the flat so the QB has nowhere to go with the ball. Jackson immediately sees the blitz and picks up the defensive end so the left tackle can handle the blitzing linebacker...well sort of anyway. Jackson moves his man away from the pocket then dumps him to the ground. He is about the only offensive player who got a block on the play.
Again later in the same drive it’s third and 8 with Michigan State on an overload blitz to the right side of the offensive line. This is a near jailbreak as the blitzing linebacker and the safety make it though with minimal resistance.
You might be wondering why I’d show you a clip on pass protection when the QB gets pummeled. It’s easy to see why if you only watch #73 on the play. Jackson picks up the simple stunt by the nose guard who moves to his right allowing the linebacker access on the blitz. The nose guard is coming on an angle, but Jackson squares him up with good hand usage inside and under the shoulder pads of his attacker. He uses good knee bend to get leverage then pushes up on the huge tackle taking away any leverage he might have. He then is able to keep him at arm’s length while he drops his hips and forms a wide base to thwart any power rush.
While just about everyone else gets through, the nose man ends up back just about where he started. It was a nice technically sound blocking session by Jackson.
This next clip is another fine job by Jackson with six defenders at the line of scrimmage in a blitz mode. It’s a ruse as two of the defenders drop back into coverage with the other four in stunting action.
At the snap the linebacker over the center takes a sharp right into Jackson’s area. He is not as powerful as the nose guard but is much quicker. Still Jackson has no trouble keeping him out of the backfield. It’s only after the QB races to his left (and outflanks his own guard) that the linebacker gets in on the play. This will go down as a tackle for loss by the linebacker, but he was totally stoned on his rush. Stats can be deceiving.
This next play against Michigan is a nice combo block that shows some of the movement skill Jackson possesses.
At the snap Jackson is out of his stance fast to get the correct angle in the double team block on the big defensive tackle. Once he has ceased the momentum of the tackle he is able to quickly get up to the middle linebacker. It is not a crushing block, but he got the job done which is not easy with a player who is running away (towards the RB) from Jackson. The RB is into the end. Many guards would have been called for holding on that play, but Jackson was able to get enough of his man without drawing the flag.
Here is some more good movement skills this time against Clemson in the semifinal of the College Football Playoff.
This is a simple backside pull to clear the path of the RB as Jackson does battle with as James Skalski who is tough as nails. This is a linebacker blitz/stunt as Skalski goes outside while the defensive end goes inside. The rough and tumble linebacker has met his match as Jackson stones him cold at the point of attack, keeping well out of the play.
This next play is another example of the stoic nature of Jackson as he protects his QB with good technique and a solid anchor.
Jackson doesn’t have really long arms (32 7/8”), but they are not short either. On this play the defensive tackle has no leverage with no hope of getting a pass rush as Jackson keeps him controlled at his arm’s length. Look how easy he does this with no stress. He just does his job calmly. There are no wasted movements.
On this last clip you get a bird’s eye view of how Jackson controls his man. He does such a good job of keeping his man centered to his frame as he mirrors the movements of the hulking defensive tackle.
You can see at the snap Jackson has a wide base. He spreads out his legs containing the tackle almost like they are dancing until he deposits him on the ground far from his QB.
Jackson allowed a single sack his entire 4 year career in college with a whopping 1,020 pass blocking snaps. He allowed 25 total pressure during that time, and the sack was the only hit he allowed his QB to take in all those snaps.
Jackson is not a people mover in the run game, but he has been working and that aspect of his game for some time. At the senior bowl he impressed the gang from The Draft Network. Here is what they said:
“One of the most fun players to watch in the one-on-one and drill sessions, Jackson regularly wrenched open gaps for his running backs across the course of the day; utilizing some excellent phone booth power and intentional footwork to generate and finish his angles.”
Like most college seniors Jackson is a work in progress, but his pass blocking prowess is intriguing for a team like the Jets who were 29th in sacks allowed in 2019. Keeping Sam Darnold upright is priority #1 for the Jets this year if they have any hopes of moving up in the conference, then competing for a title.
Jackson has a quality skill set with some good technique and hand usage. He is a former team captain, a leader on the offensive line. He also has some center experience which is always a plus in case of injury. His character is excellent. He should fit smoothly into any locker room and bring a positive demeanor with him.
That’s what I think.
What do you think?