NFL.com's Bucky Brooks recently wrote a piece detailing 2010 rookies who need to step up in their sophomore season. Clearly the 2010 rookie who the Texans are most counting on in the (hopefully) upcoming season is cornerback Kareem Jackson, who has had quite the unusual second offseason to pair with his quite terrible first on-field season.
Brooks broke down Jackson's situation thusly:
Part of the Texans' woeful pass defense could be attributed to Jackson's youth and inexperience. He was routinely overmatched by savvy veteran receivers and didn't hold up in isolated situations. With Wade Phillips instituting a zone-based system that relies on corners playing with discipline in coverage, Jackson must show the maturity and awareness to respond with a big year in Houston.
I'll start by saying I really hope Jackson's on-field maturity is better than his off-field maturity.
In no way am I going to make a big deal about Jackson's cockfighting escapades. It reflected poor decision-making, not poor character.
In no way am I going to make a big deal about Jackson's pornography promotion escapades. It reflected poor decision-making, not poor character.
In no way am I going to make a big deal about Jackson's decision not to attend Houston's player-organized mini-camp (okay, a little bit of a big deal). From what I gather, he is actually going to attend the second mini-camp, which kicks off on Monday in Houston. Of course he has been working out on his own, but I don't think I'm out of line in saying that Jackson could benefit from being present and working his tail off in front of his teammates, especially in light of the bit of embarrassment he's brought down on the team this offseason.
Alone, none of these occurrences (I won't even call them incidents, because they're not) are worth getting all red in the face about. Not by fans, and not by anyone in the front office. Kareem Jackson is still very young, and maturity issues aren't anything new in the NFL.
However, when you look at them together, there's certainly a pattern of poor decision making coming from Jackson. Cockfighting and porn parties aside, the one that bothers me the most as a fan is that Jackson didn't feel the need to get to Houston and workout with his teammates - regardless of how hard or how often he worked out on his own. Basically, as GOD AWFUL as Kareem Jackson was as a rookie, he should still have to prove himself as if he were a rookie. If the team wants to put him through rookie hazing again, then I'm all for that too.
Jobs are on the line in 2011, and Jackson's on and off-field development will play a role in that. The Texans are banking that he will reach the potential that caused them to bypass better corners in the 2010 draft to select him (I'm going to just state that as a fact without any prerequisites). They are banking that the team's best cornerback, Glover Quin, will be a better safety, and that Jackson can hold his own with new safety play, new coaching, and an entirely new defensive scheme.
So far, all we've seen out of Jackson are poor decisions, and his own new defensive coach has repeatedly stated that he's worried about Jackson's development and technique. Does that sound like a guy who should be laying low out of town, or a guy who should be hanging out with, and training/practicing with his teammates?