The Los Angeles Chargers won a bit of an ugly defensive struggle against the Denver Broncos 19-16 in overtime, raising their record to 4-2. One big development that occurred during the course of the game was that supposed star acquisition cornerback J.C. Jackson, who got signed from the New England Patriots this off-season, got benched after the first half – which, between that and his play so far, brings a lot of questions about him and whether he’s worth the $82 million he’s getting paid.
J.C. Jackson Benched Amid Los Angeles Chargers Week 6 Win
The Supposed Star
J.C. Jackson had been nothing short of excellent during his rookie contract with the Patriots. In 2020 and 2021 combined, he pulled in 17 interceptions, the most in the league in that time period. He also led the league in pass deflections in 2021 (23), and went All-Pro in 2020. With that in mind, it was quite unexpected when the Patriots allowed him to walk in free agency.
When the Chargers ended up signing Jackson (for a five-year, $82 million deal), that was one of the bigger signings of the free agency year in general, and it made the Chargers secondary look a lot more stacked. This and the Khalil Mack trade appeared to be destined to take the Chargers defense to the next level.
The Non-Injury Surgery
The story of the unfortunate recent downturn of Jackson begins back in August when he ended up having surgery on his ankle. It wasn’t a football injury – it was to remove an extra bone that he was born with in the back of his foot that shouldn’t have been there and was causing pain. The surgery wasn’t serious, but the timeline for recovery did leave him projected to miss possibly the first one to two weeks of the regular season.
Jackson indeed did not play in the opener, but did play in the Thursday Night Football game against the Kansas City Chiefs – but did not appear to be 100% there. Either from the ankle taking longer to heal than expected or from it getting aggravated, he ended up missing the Week 3 contest as well. He returned in Week 4, supposedly more healthy… and it’s gone downhill from there.
No Seriously, What Happened?
In now four games so far, Jackson has zero interceptions and only one pass deflection. Since Week 4, he’s been getting burned repeatedly downfield against weaker passing attacks (Houston Texans, Cleveland Browns, Denver Broncos). The kicker against the Broncos appeared to be toward the end of the second half when Jackson got burned by K.J. Hamler – on a play where Hamler went deep and Jackson just didn’t keep up and let Hamler go past him. Sure, there was kind of a double move, but it wasn’t close to being an elite one, and a cornerback that is good as Jackson is supposed to be should be able to handle that.
Big gain from Russ to Hamler!
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— NFL (@NFL) October 18, 2022
Jackson then got benched at the start of the second half and former starter Michael Davis came in. The difference in the play of the secondary was shocking. Russell Wilson went 12-for-17 in the first half – and 3-for-11 after that. Davis wasn’t even playing great or anything – merely serviceable – but between Jackson not getting burned and Asante Samuel Jr and Bryce Callahan pulling their weight, the downfield game for the Broncos suddenly got wiped out. Again, just to reiterate: the defense was very clearly better without Jackson than with him on Monday night.
Jackson almost certainly won’t be getting benched permanently – with as much as they’re paying him, they kind of just can’t give up on him that easily. And there is a small chance that Jackson is still not 100% and that this ankle issue is affecting his play. But the fact that he has played poorly enough to get benched at all is still an alarming development. Given their performance in the second half of this game – and their win over the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 1 without Jackson – the Chargers defense seems capable of generally holding their own without Jackson when healthy otherwise. But it would be quite unfortunate and a shame if Jackson turned out to be a free agency bust.
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