The Titans are back in the playoffs for the first time in 9 years and a vastly improved secondary has a lot to do with that. A big part of that improvement has been the rapid development of first round pick Adoree Jackson from a raw-but-athletic prospect in to a legit CB1. Jackson’s Peanut Tillman-esque forced fumble at the end of the first half against Jaguars wide receiver Keelan Cole was just the latest in a string of excellent play for the rookie corner.
In addition to causing that forced fumble Jackson was also a big part of a Titans pass defense that held Blake Bortles to a 15 of 34 (44%) for 158 yards, 0 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions stat line in the most important Titans game in nearly a decade. Bortles’ 4.65 yards per attempt and 33.7 passer rating were both season lows as well. It was a truly dominant performance from the secondary and Jackson was the best of the bunch according to PFF.
This performance fits in perfectly with an extremely positive trend line for Jackson over the course of the season. After getting picked on early, the young corner has gotten better and better with more experience. His PFF grade for the season is now at 83.6 which slots in as the 29th best corner in the league. With the majority of Jackson’s better performances weighted towards the later part of the year its safe to say he’s been performing like a top 20 corner over the back half of the year.
The stats back that up as well. Since the Titans bye week in Week 8, Jackson has been targeted 65 times, but has allowed just 38 catches (58.5% completion percentage) for 360 yards and 2 touchdowns which adds up to a 84.1 passer rating on passes thrown his way per PFF. His 0.94 yards per snap in coverage rate over that time ranks 26th out of 75 qualifying corners. These aren’t #elite numbers, but they are very good, especially for a rookie playing in a defense that asks a lot of the cornerback position.
Jackson’s most elite trait to this point has been his ability to win in contested catch situations. He shows great timing and competitiveness when the ball is in the air, ranking top 5 in the NFL in lowest catch rate allowed.
When these CBs contested a pass, they were the best at ensuring it wasn't completed pic.twitter.com/ZMCwyl5Tg7— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) January 1, 2018
You can be sure he’s going to start catching a few of these too.
Jackson’s growth has been one of the most fun parts of the Titans 2017 season. You can see him gaining confidence and improving technique on a weekly basis. This offseason will be the first time in his football career that he can focus solely on football training after competing in track during his offseasons at USC and then dealing with draft preparation this past offseason. As one of the youngest players in his draft class Jackson’s rapid early development is very promising for his long term projections as a player. Jackson, Logan Ryan, and Kevin Byard give the Titans a nice core to build around in the secondary for the foreseeable future.
Now we get to see Jackson matched up with Chiefs star Tyreek Hill in the first round of the playoffs. He is one of the few corners in the league who can match Hill’s athleticism so that should be a fun matchup to watch.