The transfer, whereas a necessity to fill a void at nook, can be a rarity for a regime that has usually allotted minimal wage to the place. When Ron Rivera and Marty Hurney led Carolina, the Panthers usually ranked close to the underside in spending at cornerback.
However in Washington, the protection leads because the offense stays in transition, and shoring up a secondary that usually leaked huge performs was a precedence.
Jackson, the No. 24 decide in 2016 by the Cincinnati Bengals, was broadly considered among the many prime cornerbacks on the open market this 12 months and, like Darby, cashed in on the proper time. The market was skinny and demand excessive.
After spending his rookie season on injured reserve with a torn pectoral, Jackson missed solely 5 video games over the previous 4 years in Cincinnati. However as a part of a protection that has ranked within the NFL’s backside third in whole yards in addition to passing yards per play in every of the previous three years, Jackson’s resume belies his potential.
He has solely three profession interceptions; has allowed opponent passer scores above 86 in three of the previous 4 seasons, in keeping with Professional Soccer Focus; and final 12 months tied for the third-most pass-interference penalties (5).
But he has uncommon pace (a 4.37-second 40-yard sprint on the NFL mix) and gave Washington loads to ponder within the Bengals’ loss at FedEx Area in Week 11 final 12 months. Jackson had two go breakups whereas protecting Washington’s prime vast receiver, Terry McLaurin, for a lot of the sport. A type of breakups was on a deep ball alongside the left sideline, the place Jackson stayed in lockstep with McLaurin earlier than tipping the ball out of the receiver’s grasp.
Washington’s protection beneath coordinator Jack Del Rio depends on a mixture of zone and man protection and emphasizes versatility, particularly amongst its defensive backs.
“Whoever we have now, we’re going to place a plan collectively to make the most of the skills we have now with the entrance, with the linebackers, with the DBs and the way it all works collectively,” Del Rio stated late final season. “We could load up the D-line one week and say, ‘We want extra from you this week.’ We could load up the DBs on one other week and say, ‘We want extra from you right here.’ We type of combine it and put a plan collectively for every opponent. Over the course of the 12 months, you see various things in several ways in which we deploy guys and totally different coverages that we need to play and totally different fronts. That’s simply type of how we put all of it collectively.”
But it surely struggled to search out consistency on the again finish partly due to personnel adjustments. Washington’s secondary was overhauled final 12 months and underwent quite a few adjustments throughout the season due to harm and efficiency points.
Kendall Fuller, the group’s prime free agent acquisition in 2020, paired with Darby to kind a reasonably cheap cornerback tandem. Darby performed on a one-year “prove-it” deal after struggling a string of accidents earlier in his profession and just lately reaped the advantages with a $30 million contract from the Broncos.
However with Fuller’s common pay of $10 million a 12 months and one other $14 million allotted to security Landon Collins, Washington is investing closely in a veteran secondary to pair with its younger and gifted defensive position. Relying on how Jackson’s contract is structured, the group can preserve the cap manageable for the secondary this 12 months, and in 2022 can have an out in Collins’s contract ought to it take into account shifting on.
“We need to put the soccer group collectively the precise approach,” Rivera stated. “A whole lot of good issues occurred final 12 months. We did one thing that was somewhat sudden, which I acknowledged. However on the similar time, simply due to that, I actually don’t suppose you throw the plan away and also you begin reaching and doing belongings you don’t must do proper now. I feel what you do is you proceed to place the items of the puzzle in place, and hopefully construct it the precise approach and put it collectively the best way you want it to be.”
Washington opened free company with evident holes at premium positions, nevertheless it has to this point discovered a veteran quarterback in Ryan Fitzpatrick; retained its beginning proper guard, Brandon Scherff (franchise tag); will re-sign its kicker Dustin Hopkins; tendered one in all its prime particular teamers and creating vast receivers in Cam Sims; and presumably upgraded at cornerback with Jackson.
The main focus for the subsequent spherical of signings may shift to the pass-catchers or the linebacker corps.
Washington has been looking for one other wideout to work alongside McLaurin and depth at tight finish with Logan Thomas. It additionally wants assist in the midst of the protection after dropping Kevin Pierre-Louis to the Houston Texans and Thomas Davis to retirement.
“You’ve bought to have guys that like the complete course of and revel in being collectively and benefit from the competitors and simply the aggressive nature,” Common Supervisor Martin Mayhew stated in February. “I feel we need to preserve including guys which have these related traits, and preserve including younger, gifted gamers that love the sport and have what I name ‘soccer ardour.’ … If you add the proper of individuals, you’re going to have the proper of success.”