In a season layered with disappointment and now tragedy, the Chiefs are hoping to find any kind of bright light they can. One positive development that largely has gone unnoticed has been the steady improvement of DE Tyson Jackson. We’re not talking leaps and bounds, mind you, but Jackson has shown signs of becoming a solid player in his fourth season.
It almost seems impossible that he’s in his fourth year because Jackson has been so relatively quiet, with four career sacks and zero forced fumbles in 43 career starts. But two of those sacks have come in the past three weeks, and Jackson was at times dominant in the emotional victory over the Panthers and showed up several times on tape in the 17-9 loss to the Broncos the week before.
There were always signs in the past that Jackson could be a good player. He's generally regarded as a good run stuffer, and he has come up with some big stops (such as a fourth-down stuff of Chargers QB Philip Rivers on a sneak attempt and a tackle on Broncos QB Peyton Manning that essentially was a sack but statistically went down as a one-yard rush). But the sheer lack of big plays had been alarming.
"A lot of times people are watching the ball, and they don't always watch what goes on in the trenches,” Chiefs head coach Romeo Crennel said. “Tyson has always been a consistent player for us, and every time he goes out there, he does what we ask him to do, and he competes very well.”
But what Crennel said next has been a key element of Jackson’s development: “We're just asking him to do a little bit more, and he's doing more."
Before, it was almost unsightly to see the former No. 3 overall pick come off the field in passing situations earlier this season. But now Jackson essentially is a three-down player, coming back on the field in nickel situations because of his ability to stop the run, which comes in handy with five defensive backs and one fewer linebacker on the field. Jackson also has added some penetration ability to his arsenal, which has shown up when combating interior players more so than bigger offensive tackles.
There is still work to be done to say that Jackson remains in the team’s long-term picture, however. Because of how his reworked deal is structured, his base salary would be in excess of $14 million and the team would be on the hook for at least $3 million guaranteed, per reports. But at 26 and appearing to improve slowly, Jackson could be working his way back into the team’s plans, depending on who comprises next season’s coaching staff and what their coaching philosophies are.