In 2015, there weren't many players on the Colts who generated such differing opinions as inside linebacker D'Qwell Jackson did. From one point of view, he was the Pro Bowl inside linebacker who led the team with 138 tackles. From the other point of view, he was a liability on the defense, particularly in coverage. So what was the reality? And what can we expect from Jackson this year? Those are two questions that we'll attempt to answer.
As is often the case, the answer to how D'Qwell Jackson's 2015 season really went lies somewhere in the middle of the two views laid out above. When you look at the numbers, he had a very nice season, as he started every game, recorded 138 tackles, four sacks, a pass defensed, a forced fumble, and four fumble recoveries. As already noted, he made the Pro Bowl as a recognition for his play. And from a team perspective, he won his first division title, made his first playoff berth, and won his first two playoff games. That seems like a pretty good season, doesn't it? With all of that said, Jackson struggled often on the field. This was sometimes the case against the run and very often the case against the pass, where he was absolutely a liability, and that might not even describe it fully. He was not good at defending the pass - at all. Overall, however, he did improve as the season went on. He had a pretty terrible start to the season all around in both run and pass defense, but he improved significantly over the second half of the season. Over the second half of the year, Jackson actually because a solid contributor for the defense. So, once again, the reality lies somewhere in the middle of the perceptions about Jackson.
How can he help the Colts this year? He's clearly entrenched as the Colts' starter at inside linebacker alongside Jerrell Freeman, and that is unlikely to change unless he suffers an injury. And honestly, as long as the Colts know how to use him well, that's not a bad thing. He's not going to be a great player and likely won't be the player that he used to be, but he can still be a solid player in the middle of the defense. If both Jackson and Freeman give the team that caliber of play, they should be fine - particularly considering that guys like Nate Irving, Henoc Muamba, and others could play key depth roles. The position might not be the strongest on the team, but it definitely should be good enough. The one thing the coaching staff needs to be mindful of is Jackson's weaknesses in coverage, and while as the starter he certainly will have to play in coverage at times, trying to limit those opportunities or have better matchups could help. Ultimately, D'Qwell Jackson should be a solid contributor for the Colts at inside linebacker again this season, and if he can pick up where he left off in the second half of last season, he'll definitely be someone the team can win with.