Will the Real Chad Jackson Please Stand Up?
The signing of Chad Jackson may be the offense’s answer to Jarvis Moss. Surprised? Don’t be. Chad Jackson is the perfect combination of incredible metrics, minimal experience and knowledge of the game, and all the potential in the world. He’s the definition of upside with a side order of frustration. It will be up to the Broncos to teach him the game, make sure he knows the playbook, and bring him along slowly. If they try to thrust him into too much too soon, he’ll be just another confused and released player. And this is why.
Chad Wolfegang Jackson was born the son of Kaye and Watson Jackson on March 6, 1985 in Birmingham, Ala. There’s not much out there about his early life, but as with so many players, when he got to high school, things began to heat up fast. He was a three year starter at Hoover High School in Birmingham and was named to the Parade and Super Prep All-American teams. Electrically fast, he also finished third in the state track meet in the 300 meter event. Tall and well coordinated, he played basketball for three years before concentrating on football his senior year.
But even with his flirtation with basketball and track, he was a standout at the perennial HS football powerhouse. He recorded 202 receptions for 3553 yards and 40 touchdowns. He ran and passed for 12 more TDs and played a little free safety. By the time he left HS, they had a 41-3 record and 2 6A state championships.
Jackson was undecided at first, looking at Auburn and Georgia, but settled on Florida as his alma mater where he majored in anthropology. He was fairly undistinguished at first, although as a true freshman he saw time on special teams in all 13 games, but he began to break out his sophomore year. That year, he played all 12 games with three starts, catching 29 passes for 648 yards (22.3 avg) and six touchdowns. He set a school record with his team-best 22.3 yards per catch that year, a mark that ranked third nationally among all receivers with at least 25 catches. Even at that, he took a while to catch on, since he caught 25 of those passes over the last 9 games of the season and recorded five of his 6 TD passes in the last 7 games of the year.
Urban Meyer took over the Florida program in 2005. As a junior that year, Jackson started 11 games and appeared in all twelve. He tied the school record for receptions in a single season with 88, which also led the Southeastern Conference. His 88 catches went for 900 yards and nine touchdowns, with two additional rushing touchdowns. With a TD every 9.7 catches, Jackson was named to the AP All- SEC Team for 2005 and was one of 15 semi-finalists for the Biletnikof Award. He was selected as an All-American third-team choice by The NFL Draft Report, earned honorable mention from Pro Football Weekly and was an Associated Press All-Southeastern Conference first-team pick, adding second-team accolades from the league’s coaches. Following that season, Jackson declared that he would forgo his final year of eligibility and enter the NFL draft. And that’s where his troubles really started.
One thing that propelled him to near the top of the draft was his outstanding performance at the Combine. Jackson had one of the fastest times ever recorded, a blazing 4.32 (the fastest recorded was in 1989, when Deion Sanders stopped a non-electronic clock at 4.29 seconds) and was clocked anywhere from 4.26 to 4.36 seconds unofficially. His vertical jump was 38.5". He won the ESPN Best Hands competition in 2006 with some circus catches, which is ironic considering his troubles before and since. But at 6’1 and 213 lb and with the production in his late sophomore and junior years, people were ready to take a chance on a man who was a gifted natural athlete who was built well and could go over the middle. In the end, New England took a chance on him with pick 36 overall in the 2nd round. They traded with the Packers to move up 16 places (from their 52nd to the Packers' 36th), giving up a third-round pick (75th overall) acquired in a trade. Chad Jackson signed a four-year deal.
Even in college, he sometimes had problems holding on to the ball. But it was a weak receiver class in 2006, and the Broncos were among the teams that wanted Jackson catching for them. There's no question that they went a better way with the pick of Cutler. Jackson certainly helped his stock by coming out early, but just as certainly damaged his pro career. Jackson missed the entire preseason with a hamstring injury; his first NFL game was in Week 2 of the 2006 season against the Jets in which he caught two passes for a total of 42 yards; one of those was a 13-yard touchdown.
In Week 4 he caught two passes for a total of nine yards against the Cincinnati Bengals but his performance continued to be limited due to his nagging hamstring injury. A bothersome groin injury cost him two more games in December. On February 23, 2007 it was announced that Jackson had suffered a tear of the ACL in his knee during the teams AFC Championship loss to the Colts. Jackson finished his rookie season with 13 catches for 152 yards, six first downs and three TDs.
In 2007, Jackson was placed on the Pats PUP list at the beginning of the team's training camp due to his previous knee injury. He was activated on November 8.
During training camp this year, an August 27 report stated that WR Chad Jackson still hasn't shown the ability to run crisp, timely routes that New England requires and remains a huge disappointment. Given his history of injury, slowed progress and New England’s corps at receiver, on August 31, 2008, Jackson was released by the Patriots during final cuts.
It’s worth noting that Jackson saw the ACL injury as a blessing in disguise, and took the time to do remedial classroom work with OC Josh McDaniels and WR coach Nick Caserios. He would have been helped by a senior year to learn the position better and to gain needed physical maturity. There’s a substantial school of thought that states that the practice of coming out early is often a hindrance for physical reasons – the leathery sinews of a younger player have time to turn to the steel of the established older male. This may have been true with Jackson. What we know if that he took it on himself to spend time trying to learn the pro game, although we don’t know how that went. Since Shanahan had plenty of chances to talk to his friend Bill B. with New England, he should have some idea of how Jackson is maturing mentally.
The questions are plentiful: Can he stay healthy? Can he catch up the lost time in reps and physical conditioning, the need for mental maturity and intelligence?
We know that as soon as he landed with the Pats, that Jackson hooped it up with several of his teammates and put his skills on display in a charity basketball game in Westford, Mass., to benefit the Westford Academy Athletic Boosters. In the offseason, Chad went home to visit his high school in Hoover, Alabama. There, he announced the formation of his own charitable foundation and plans for launching a summer youth camp and holiday toy drive. He gives back to the community, and that says a lot about Chad Jackson the man.
We know that in preparation for the Combine, Jackson's agent, David Canter, reported,
"(Chad) said, 'Tell me everything I need to do to do what Troy Williamson did (Who Carter also represented),' Canter said. "He goes, 'I don't care if it's eating every single of the worst tasting foods for the next three months (or) study the Wonderlic test.' He did his workouts. He didn't complain. He just shut up and went about his business and played his video games. He didn't even go out (at night)."
We know that he’s a motivated, caring young man with no acertainable bad life habits. We know that he lacks real time experience, didn’t pick up the mental side of the pro game easily, and who was physically not ready for the NFL. But we also know that his measurables are incredible, and he did rise to the college challenge a little later (late sophomore and junior year). So, now it’s down to one question.
Will the real Chad Jackson please stand up?