Tre’Davious White had the worst possible return to his home state of Louisiana this year, suffering a season-ending injury on Thanksgiving of all days. With a critical piece of the Buffalo Bills’ defense sidelined, it was Dane Jackson trying to fill some mighty big shoes. He’s locked up for the next season if the Bills want him, so let’s see how he did.
The Buffalo Bills have a bit of a reputation scheming their defense to mask athletic limitations for a portion of their defensive backs, and it’s my “hunch” that this continues with Dane Jackson. Cushions like this are common, as it allows the defensive back a head start in case it’s a deeper route. And the eyes-forward approach makes it easier to react to the play. Right here we see the downside of the strategy. Quicker throws can be harder to stop if the quarterback reads the play, and this particular quarterback has a decent track record of reading the play well.
It looks like Dane Jackson is in man coverage here as he bails on what would be his zone even with another defender entering it. Here’s a similar way the Tampa Bay Buccaneers took advantage of the strategy the Bills employed with Dane Jackson.
Now here’s an advantage. Dane Jackson turns sideways, which suggests he recognizes the dude who’s about to be sprinting right by him. If he pursued, there’s your head start and (see below) Jackson likely would have used that head start wisely. Because his eyes are forward he sees the ball coming out and he attacks the ball carrier. I like the reaction time, the patience to not run into his teammate, and the aggressiveness.
Jackson looks to be holding down a zone. It’s important to note that Buffalo loves to swap between man and zone. We see some similar things happening here as to those above but on this play I wanted to highlight the enthusiasm (and technique) in bringing down Rob Gronkowski. Dane Jackson is not an imposing presence, and his mockdraftable profile doesn’t scream “explosive.” He plays a lot different than the numbers suggest.
The Bills’ scheme works best with players who can read the field and react well. Overall, I was pretty impressed in that regard with Dane Jackson.
I told you to see below and here it is. Here’s the cushion and head start in action as Jackson cuts off the route and nearly gets a pick.
I know defensive coordinator/assistant head coach Leslie Frazier and head coach Sean McDermott both get a lot of crap for not adjusting to what offenses are doing and often that’s not completely fair. Against the Bucs they allowed 24 first-half points and only three in the second half. What happened? Adjustments. This isn’t perfect coverage by Jackson. It’s not terrible either. However, a quarterback of this caliber knows that target is open enough for a big gain. Jackson is now trying to jam at the line and playing tighter coverage from the get-go.
I don’t think this shows anything new, but I love everything about this play.
Here are a couple things I wanted to discuss. Jackson isn’t an on-field track star but he holds his own on the route. He also passes the coverage off well and smoothly comes back to react to a potential play underneath.
I doubt this will surprise anyone, but Dane Jackson is no Tre’Davious White. He played a lot better than many expected, though. The Bills and their knack for getting the most out of defensive backs continues. Credit the scheme. Credit the surrounding talent. Credit the front office for finding intelligent players who can read the field. If a Levi Wallace departure is in the cards this season, it very likely could lead to a Dane Jackson CB2 scenario. And like Wallace, we may see an annual “try to upgrade but probably won’t” cycle.
- All-22 Year in review: Levi Wallace
- All-22 Year in review: Dane Jackson
- Contract projection for CB Levi Wallace
- Bills don’t have in-house depth to replace Levi Wallace
- Free agents who could replace Levi Wallace
- 2022 NFL Draft prospects at CB
- Opinion: Bills should upgrade the CB2 spot from Levi Wallace this offseason