We've been beating a dead horse, I'm guilty too. Jeromey Clary this, Jeromey Clary that. The fact is, he's replaceable. It was clear from the 1st series of the preseason what Charger fans were in store for.
That brings us today to Gabe Jackson, another "safe" pick who played and excelled at left guard at Mississippi State in college. Before we get into where he excels and struggles at, here's how he stacks up versus other guards at the combine.
Average OG At the Combine
3 Cone Drill
20 yd Short Shuttle
What Makes Him So Good
Very Powerful Upper body Strength/Punch
Plays with Good, Natural Knee Bend
Quick Feet-Moves well for his size
The first thing I noticed when watching Jackson, was in pass protection he would extend his arms, give the defender a good initial punch, and the defensive tackle would abruptly move backwards, almost as if they were shell-shocked. Jackson weighed in at 336, so you'd expect him to be powerful, but his ability to generate power initially, and even when he's retreating is very impressive. Watch big #61 in the GIF below.
In the run game, he's an animal. He has powerful, controlling hands. Jackson has proven that he can turn almost any defensive tackle perpendicular to the line of scrimmage. He takes you where you want to go, even if that means to the ground.
The amount of "waist benders" in the NFL get washed out quickly. They just don't succeed. This isn't an issue with Jackson. He does an excellent job of bending his knees and playing with good leverage. This allows him to become even more powerful than he actually is.
For a man his size, I was pleasantly surprised to see how quick Jackson's feet were. He does a good job of pulling/moving laterally and getting to the 2nd level(though he doesn't always take the greatest angles.) I wouldn't say he's a crazy, fluid athlete, like Jonathan Cooper a year ago, but he has good feet that allows him to get the job done. His feet are very good in pass protection and that also allows him to mirror pass rushers. Combine that with his punch, and you have a very effective player.
Mississippi State did some weird things in their blocking scheme, they would ask their guards to pull and cut off defensive ends on the opposite side of the formation. Jackson showed off his quickness when asked to do this.
Where He'll Struggle
Counter Moves from quicker Defensive Tackles
Inconsistent Hand Placement
Jackson was able to get away with some shaky hand placement in the SEC because he could simply over power players. But the defensive tackles who were more technicians or just simply athletic would give Jackson fits. Jackson has a tendency to just grab the shoulders, and he got exposed at the Senior Bowl. Aaron Donald, who's a good 50 pounds lighter than Jackson, was able to walk him back into the quarterback, and was giving him fits throughout the game. Jackson will need to correct his hand placement first and foremost to be successful in the NFL, where everyone is strong.
While Jackson never really misses his assignments, a lot of times it seems like he's just going through the motions. At times' he'll be asked to pull or get to the 2nd level, and he is either too slow to get to his target or react to his target. What I'm trying to say is I'm not sure Jackson knows who to pick up. He doesn't strike me as a instinctive player.
While he's not Johnnie Troutman bad, it does seem like he had an issue picking up stunts as well at times.
I believe Jackson will have issues, at least initially, when it comes to blocking quicker 3 technique defensive tackles, or disruptive 1 techniques. Guys that can either hit Jackson with a quick counter move, or speed rush. It seemed like Jackson would overreact, lunge, and that would cause him to get beat or allow the defensive tackle to cross his face.
Multiple Pro Bowl Player, Top 10
8.5 – 9.0
Highly Productive Starter, 1st Round
8.0 – 8.4
Very Good Starter, Early 2nd Round
7.8 – 7.9
Reliable Starter, 2nd Round
7.5 – 7.7
Potential Starter in Year 2, 3rd Round
7.0 – 7.4
Backup/Spot Starter, 4th Round
6.5 – 6.9
Productive Backup, 5th Round
6.0 – 6.4
Very Good Backup/STs, 6th Round
5.5 – 5.9
Quality Backup/Good STs, 7th Round
5.0 – 5.4
Backup/STs/Project Player, 7th Round
4.5 – 4.9
Priority Free Agent w/ Limitations
4.0 – 4.4
Change of Direction
Jackson grades out to a 7.88, or a top 50 player. He has very good power, matched with his flexibility and this allows him to create running lanes that would make any runner happy. He also has quick enough feet to mirror in pass protection, combined with his length, he should be a very good plug and play type starter as a rookie. I knocked Jackson for his size, because he it didn't look like he was carrying good weight at the Senior Bowl, and he came into the season heavy, too. Some have mentioned he wasn't as quick this year because of the added weight.
How He Fits as a Charger
Jackson would allow Chad Rinehart to play right guard, or if you really want Ryan Mathews to make the Pro Bowl, you put him next to DJ Fluker to create massive running lanes. Either way, he'd be an upgrade to the offensive line. Unlike Troutman & Clary, Jackson is rarely on the ground, and doesn't make mistakes in the run game, something head coach Mike McCoy is clearly interested in. I think we can all believe in coach Joe D'Alessandris that he would work out any awareness issues Jackson has.
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