The Buffalo Bills have boasted one of the league’s best pass defenses for the better part of head coach Sean McDermott and defensive coordinator/assistant head coach Leslie Frazier’s tenure with the team. Most of that success has come as a result of excellent play in the secondary. The Bills have been excellent in the secondary while operating with only one first-round draft pick at that level of the defense.
Buffalo’s ability to find and develop solid corners, and then to put them in position to succeed, has been one of the main reasons that the team has surged in McDermott’s tenure. Of course, a certain quarterback has also contributed just a bit to the Bills’ success, but this much is certain: every man on Buffalo’s roster does his one-eleventh to ensure success.
In today’s edition of “90 players in 90 days,” we highlight a player who had huge shoes to fill last year—and fill them he did.
Name: Dane Jackson
Height/Weight: 5’11” 180 lbs
Age: 25 (26 on 11/29/2022)
Experience/Draft: 3; selected in the seventh round (No. 239 overall) of the 2020 NFL Draft by Buffalo
Acquired: Seventh-round draft choice
Financial situation (per Spotrac): Jackson enters the final year of his contract, a two-year reserve/futures pact he signed prior to the 2021 season. The deal is worth a total of $1.71 million, and his cap hit for 2022 is $895,000 if he makes the 53-man roster. There is no guaranteed money on the deal.
2021 Recap: Jackson made the 53-man roster out of camp, and he played a limited number of snaps on defense through the team’s first ten games. After Tre’Davious White tore his ACL on Thanksgiving Night against the New Orleans Saints, Jackson stepped in as CB2 across from Levi Wallace. There were some hiccups along the way (he was beaten on a crossing pattern in overtime against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on the game-winning touchdown, for example), but Jackson was largely excellent over the final nine games Buffalo played. Jackson had 41 tackles and six pass breakups in the regular season, and he added ten tackles in the playoffs.
Positional outlook: Jackson finds himself in a battle for playing time once again, and while Wallace is gone, Buffalo drafted Kaiir Elam in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft. White is working his way back from that ACL tear. Buffalo also has Taron Johnson, Siran Neal, Cam Lewis, Christian Benford, Travon Fuller, Olaijah Griffin, Tim Harris, Ja’Marcus Ingram, and Nick MCCloud on the roster.
2022 Offseason: Jackson has participated in OTAs and he is healthy for training camp.
2022 Season outlook: I expect that the Bills will employ some sort of rotation between their top three corners, especially in the early going, as White and Elam will both need time to find their footing. White will be just short of nine months removed from his ACL tear once games begin, so the Bills may want to ease him back into the lineup. As for Elam, he is extremely talented, but Jackson can play meaningful snaps if Elam doesn’t quite perform at a top level right away. I imagine that we’ll see much more of Jackson in September and October than we will once the weather turns colder, which is less an indictment of Jackson’s play than it is an acknowledgement of the talent Buffalo has in the secondary. Depth at corner is never a bad thing, and Buffalo has three legitimate starters at the outside CB spot. That’s a good place to be. Jackson will continue to contribute to Buffalo’s high-powered defense, and as a restricted free agent next year, I assume that he will remain with the club for the foreseeable future.