The New Orleans Saints continued to pick defensive players on day 3 after taking DB Alontae Taylor in the 2nd round Friday. This began with their 5th round pick in D’Marco Jackson, who could be better than some initially believed, as he has some traits that could land him a rotational linebacker spot for the Saints. In this article, I will be breaking down some of the traits that he has that could benefit New Orleans, and how Jackson could benefit the team in the short and potentially long term.
Measurables and RAS
The first thing to note with any player is their physical profile and their performances in the combine or pro day drills. D’Marco Jackson is undersized for a linebacker at 6’1” (official 6’ and 1/2”) and 233 pounds. However, his speed and lateral agility make up for this, as shown in his composite speed grade by the RAS and a 4.55 40-yard dash.
D'Marco Jackson was drafted with pick 161 of round 5 in the 2022 draft class. He scored a 8.29 RAS out of a possible 10.00. This ranked 414 out of 2419 LB from 1987 to 2022. https://t.co/WkjOHjxRRU #RAS #Saints pic.twitter.com/8gN4qpmZ3Z— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) April 30, 2022
Due to being undersized for the linebacker position, odds are he will play at the Will linebacker spot to take more of a coverage approach rather than intensive pass rushing. This would bode well for Jackson, as we move into one of his first strengths as a player:
Man and Zone Coverage / Closing Speed
One of the first things you will notice about Jackson on the field is how quickly he can close to the ball carrier, both in coverage and when attempting a tackle. His raw speed that we talked about previously is shown in a functional manner as well and gives him a leg up when moving sideline to sideline. He also has utility both in man coverage against tight ends or running backs, as well as in zone coverage across the middle. All three of these traits can be seen in a game against Coastal Carolina in 2021, which will be the game I utilize most of the film from as it was one of their tougher opponents this past season.
Man to man/individual coverage (up against 2022 4th round pick Isaiah Likely, TE):
Zone coverage (up against WR Tyson Mobley. Reads QBs eyes, stays still until QB makes a decision, and then makes the tackle out of his zone):
Closing speed (Quickly reads the play, sees that pass will go to Isaiah Likely, then closes across the field and pushes Isaiah out of bounds):
Run Stopping and Block Shedding
The other two traits that Jackson displays are his ability to shed blocks and to stop the run when needed. Due to his smaller frame compared to the average linebacker, D’Marco is able to slide between blocks and make plays because of it, which helps with his run-stopping. Rather than engaging the offensive line directly, which he would struggle with due to a lack of leverage, he instead finds gaps between the offensive line and goes directly at the running back/ball carrier. His quick and active hands allow for this to be perfected, as he can quickly disengage from a block and slide left or right to get into gaps while the OL is still trying to recover. There were a few examples of this in the same game previously shown against Coastal Carolina.
Block shedding #1: Sheds block by #51 upfield and gets an arm on the ball carrier (#8) to slow him, and eventually bring him down while still partially engaged in the block.
Block shedding #2: Breaks off a block from #2 immediately and brings down RB where he stands:
Run Stopping: Closes the running lane quickly after the snap, and holds up the running back to a very small gain:
Overall, D’Marco should bring some depth to the Saints linebacker position for 2022, and some great special teams utilization in his first year. If the Saints coaching staff can develop and refine his coverage even more than it already is, they may have a potential rotational linebacker for passing downs long term.