Without even trying, I've already irritated 9 people. Now part of that is because some people just don't like me. The other part is that Tyson Jackson has become the new Glenn Dorsey around here. It's time someone did a full-blown, no-holds-barred post about the man.
Hi guys, it's been a while...
Starting classes, preparing for law school (who knew it would involve a lot of paperwork?), and getting the house ready for the new baby have taken up an extraordinary amount of my time lately. To make matters worse, my wife has started genuinely expecting me to help out around the house! Some lame excuse about being eight and a half months pregnant and needing more help, or something like that. I wasn't really paying attention.
Anyways, the result of my forced absence is I've missed out on a lot of the offseason fun so far. The mock drafts (which I'm sure I'll be able to catch up on), the lists of team needs (it really stung missing that phase), and the FA frenzy started without me. I'm a little hurt you guys didn't wait for me, but Chris and Joel refused to shut down AP in my absence. Go figure.
The biggest argument I've been following has been the ongoing debate about Tyson Jackson. Is he a bust? Is he a below average player? Is he much improved? Did his injury set him back too far to make a fair judgement? Everyone's got an opinion, so it's time to dig deep down like my man Dig Dug.
When trying to determine if a young player is a bust or if he's a guy who is a part of our future I ask myself two questions...
Number 1- Is he actively contributing?
Number 2- Is he improving at a decent rate?
So let's look at question Number 1. A h/t has to go to Kalo here, because he did all my work for me. All I had to do was go back and look at T-Jax's KPM/snap (if you don't know what that is, read this) and figure it out from there. His system is about as good as it gets when trying to evaluate a 3-4 DE, since tackles and sacks don't really tell the story with them.
Let's take a look at his rating from Week 1 forward (in weeks he played, naturally).
Week 1- .342 (in 35 snaps)
Week 7- .333 (in 18 snaps)
Week 8- .533 (in 23 snaps)
Week 9- .267 (in 30 snaps)
Week 10- Info not available (Kalo had technical difficulties)
Week 11- .733 (in 15 snaps)
Week 12- 0 (in 7 snaps)- It should be noted we were in nickel D 74% our snaps in this game.
Week 13 and 14- Info not available
Week 15- .435 (in 23 snaps)
Week 16- 1.000 (in 15 snaps)
Week 17- Info not available
Here's a picture of what T-Jax does on non-gamedays to rest your eyes for a second. That's right, he picks on older, smaller people. Uncool.
Anyways, what did we learn here? His average KPM/snap rating was a .455. We also learned that he played around 20 snaps a game, with the two big exceptions being 35 (against the Chargers) and 7 (against the Seahawks). So what does that tell us? Well, it helps us make several logical conclusions.
First , T-Jax was very productive when he was on the field. A .455 KPM/snap rating is very, very good. Second, T-Jax was not on the field nearly as often as one would like to see from a first round pick.
So why is that? Why would a guy who is producing when he's out there not get more snaps? Well, part of the answer is Shaun Smith. He played well week in and week out and kept earning the right to stay on the field. The other half to the equation is that we were in the nickel package at least 50% of the game pretty much every single week. And in those packages T-Jax lost out to Gilberry for a spot on the line (we often only had 2 real linemen in when we went to nickel). Add those two factors up and you see why T-Jax was seeing limited snaps (and that's if you discount coming back from an injury).
Now let's go back to the two questions we can ask about a draft pick and figure out of they're a bust or worth holding out hope for.
Is he actively contributing?
The answer to that is clearly yes. When Jackson came back from his injury, he had a number of very strong games despite limited playing time. He was excellent in run support and at taking on double teams, which was a big reason why our run defense didn't totally fall apart (although it did suffer) when Edwards faded down the stretch.
Let me put it this way... Our run defense was ranked 2nd to last in the NFL last year. We took 46 yds/g off our average and improved to 14th in the league this year. Looking at T-Jax's KPM/snap ratings, it's clear he had a part in this improvement. His KPM/snap ratings were often superior to Smith's, despite the claims that Smith was outplaying him all year. The reality is T-Jax was playing just as well or better in nearly every game.
Is he improving at a decent rate?
This is where people seem to be getting hung up. Many are jaded by watching Ndamukong Suh come out and dominate as a rookie, or watching B.J. Raji turn into a very good NT in his second year. They see that, then look at T-Jax and say, "Well, clearly he's a bust. Look what those guys are doing!"
The problem is that Suh and Raji are two totally different players in two totally different situations. We've already figured out that T-Jax is contributing to our defense. So let's stop comparing him to others around the league and ask ourselves, "Is he much better than last year?"
The answer to that is a total, complete, absolute, without-a-doubt, unequivocal, never-been-so-sure-of-anything-in-my-life
I'll bore you with one example before leaving you to your thoughts. This time last year, many people were down on Glenn Dorsey. We heard many of the same things about him we've heard about Jackson, with the additional "he's out of position" argument thrown in. I was never a part of that crowd. And why?
Because A) he was contributing, and B) he was improving at a decent rate. He passed the test.
And so does Jackson. While the two aren't EXACTLY the same (Dorsey was further along after two years, and a slightly better player to start with), those two similarities (both contributing, both improving) are enough to make me believe by this time next year we'll all be thrilled with our DE combo. If he improves even half as much next year as he did this year, he'll be a very solid player on our line.
And if not? Well, there's always Wallace Gilberry.
And... ninja pic