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The Myth Of Kareem Jackson's Improvement

As bad as his season was this year, I will be the first to admit that Kareem Jackson should not be buried for it. He was forced into a rough spot as a rookie cornerback on a team that desperately needed him to be solid right off the bat, and he wound up far short of that. Gary Kubiak can coach-speak us with how he was keeping Jackson fresh all he wants, but the simple truth of the matter is that he wasn't playing well enough to keep getting consistent snaps. In some circles, they call this "getting benched." 

Then the great spin machine went to work again. Here are the John McClain quotes, which were first brought to my attention by this post on Texans Bull Blog, and later found in McClain's latest chat of sadness.

[Comment From superdave]
So what is your post season evaluation of Jackson through his rookie year? Do you think that he is a bust since you are still projecting the Texans to pursue another DB in the draft?

John McClain: He gave up the second-most yards in the league but only 4 touchdowns. Opponents completed 51 percent of passes thrown at him compared to more than 70 percent and 8 TDs by DeAngelo Hall, who also gave up the most yards. And still made the Pro Bowl. Jackson lacks great speed. When he gets beat, he can't make it up. That's why he has to improve areas he can improve in.

Apples and oranges are fun, aren't they kids?

Here's a fact that may surprise you: quarterbacks, when they throw the ball deep, are taking a risk. The completion percentage on deep balls is not anywhere near as high as it is on slant routes, comebackers, and the like. I don't have a league wide percentage on-hand, but trust me as someone who has charted many football games: a lot more can go wrong on a long throw. Of course, when they do complete the ball, it's often for a huge gain and worth the reward, which is why those balls are thrown in the first place.

The reason Kareem Jackson gave up the second most yards in the league, even despite being benched for stretches in the second half of the season, is that he was getting beat deep left and right. Much like Dunta Robinson's misleading percentage for the Texans last season, Jackson's completion percentage against is built on the hands of deep balls that were overthrown and/or dropped. 

This DeAngelo Hall red herring is cute, but a) making the Pro Bowl has never been a sign that a football player is good (Vince Young says hello) and b) Hall has a history of being completely overrated as a cornerback. In fact, the Raiders didn't trade him away, or lose him to free agency, they straight up cut him. Because he's not that good. Much like Robinson, he's used his first round draft stock and shallow free agent markets to ride his reputation up much higher than it should be. The most important stat for a cornerback is guaranteed money, apparently.

Maybe Kareem Jackson will go to work this offseason and catch up with NFL speed. Maybe he'll show up next year and be a completely different player. Cornerbacks often need a few years to really become NFL players, as I'm sure the McClain Machine will be bringing up later this offseason when he's fed more brilliant PR information, like last year's "Glover Quin never allows touchdowns," manifesto. 

But nothing we saw on the field last year should factor into that process. He was a bad cornerback and there is nothing about his performance that suggested he was getting better as the season went along. I'm not saying he won't eventually be a worthwhile player, but if he does become one, it'll have a hell of a lot more to do with what happens this offseason than what happened while he was splitting snaps with Jason Allen.

Images by eflon used in background images under a Creative Commons license. Thank you.