When free agent linebacker D'Qwell Jackson signed with the Colts earlier this offseason, it was clear that two of the major factors in his decision were the chance to win a Super Bowl, and head coach Chuck Pagano.
"Chuck Pagano, he's the same guy every day. He's a genuine guy that preaches family and he walks it, and I think guys respect that," Jackson said today, echoing the sentiments he has expressed ever since signing with Indy. "If you've been any other place, it's not a lot of that environment going on; it's strictly a business atmosphere. But not here. Here it's business when it's time for business, but it's a family here and guys would run through a brick wall for the guys. I know I would for the short time I've been here."
Jackson has fit right in with the family atmosphere with the Colts, and he's realized even more how much he likes and respects Pagano. Hopefully, he'll realize the other goal just as much - winning the Super Bowl. It all starts in the offseason and in camp, and Jackson has been putting in the work to do his part to not just making the Super Bowl but the playoffs - something Jackson's teams have never done in his eight year career, all with the Cleveland Browns.
The whole goal with being an inside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme is making plays. Jackson certainly has a history of making plays, as he's notched over 100 tackles in five of the seven years he's played, including each of the last three. Similarly, over his first two seasons in the NFL, Jerrell Freeman - who will be starting at inside linebacker alongside Jackson - has notched well over 100 tackles. "Yeah, we're going to be competing with each other," Jackson joked about him and Freeman competing for tackles. "But hey, we're going to make this defense much, much better and like I said, I'm still in awe of his ability." Jackson raved about Freeman, saying that with "how physically gifted he is and how smart he is, the sky is the limit for him."
"It makes my job easier and vice versa," Jackson said in regards to playing alongside Freeman. "They've got to pick their poison, whether you're going to focus on Jerrell or focus on myself. At the end, as long as the team's winning, as long as we're stopping that run, that's why I'm here. That's why I signed on here. We're trying to take this team to the next level and if I can help do that, I will. Jerrell is going to be a big part of the future of this team and this year."
"It's like a quarterback and a wide receiver coming together, that chemistry," head coach Chuck Pagano said of Jackson and Freeman learning to play with each other. "They're building that chemistry with every single practice and every single day starting way back in offseason program and it's continued to build through training camp."
"We've been here just a short time, but we just sit back and watch and you can see the dialogue, the communication. And really they're starting to just look at each other and know what the other guy's thinking, which is really good."
Pagano raved about Jackson, saying that "we saw great things. But he's exceeded expectations. He is everything and more that we saw coming in." Pagano continued, saying that, "he's been outstanding. He's a great leader, great mentor, tireless worker. Smart guy, understands the game. He's no finished product by any means as far as our scheme goes and learning the terminology and everything like that, but he's been really, really good to this point. So we're obviously very excited to have him here."
At this point in his career, Jackson is what he is. He's a 30-year old inside linebacker who isn't great against the run, but who will serve as an improvement for the Colts and who should rack up tackles, being a solid force in the middle of the defense. Considering all the other uncertainty surrounding the pass rush and the secondary, I'll take solid. I'll take it in an instant. And that's what D'Qwell Jackson is - he's a great leader who's a solid player, and one who produces. He's been impressive in Indianapolis so far, and there's no reason to think that will stop as the combination of Jerrell Freeman and D'Qwell Jackson really starts to get going.