Last year, the Buffalo Bills faced mounting injuries in the defensive secondary almost from the minute the season began. Buffalo’s depth was tested early and often, and given that the majority of those players were young and inexperienced, there were some growing pains.
The silver lining of a season like that is that, in the following season, some of those depth players who had to fill bigger roles can return to their intended use. They also gained valuable experience that they can apply in the event that their role needs to increase in the future. It’s this reason — in addition to the talent the Bills have in the secondary — that leads me to believe Buffalo will be even better in the defensive secondary this season.
In today’s installment of our “90 players in 90 days” series, we profile one of Buffalo’s depth corners who stepped up last season. He was definitely a lightning rod for criticism in an expanded role last year, but a return to normalcy should allow him to thrive.
Name: Dane Jackson
Height/Weight: 5’11”, 180 pounds
Age: 26 (27 on 11/29/2023)
Experience/Draft: 4; selected by Buffalo in the seventh round (No. 239 overall) of the 2020 NFL Draft
Acquired: Seventh-round draft choice
Financial situation (per Spotrac): Jackson signed a one-year deal in the offseason worth a guaranteed $2.01 million. That’s his cap number whether he’s on the roster this season or the Bills release him.
2022 Recap: Jackson worked as Buffalo’s de facto CB1 last year in the absence of Tre’Davious White. For all his shortcomings, the former seventh-round pick had a solid year overall. He started 14 of the 15 games in which he played, missing only the Week 3 loss against the Miami Dolphins due to a neck injury he’d suffered the week before against the Tennessee Titans. That neck injury led him to be taken off the field by ambulance. Jackson also started one of Buffalo’s two playoff contests. He ended up playing on 829 defensive snaps, more than any corner other than Taron Johnson.
Jackson led the Bills in pass breakups with 12, and he also set a career-high in interceptions with two. He had 57 tackles, one tackle for loss, and one forced fumble on the year. According to Pro Football Reference, Jackson was targeted 78 times in the passing game, allowing 46 completions (59%) for 538 yards and three touchdowns for a passer rating against of 82.1. He missed seven tackles on the year, which was more than anyone other than Damar Hamlin (7) and Matt Milano (13).
Positional outlook: Jackson is one of ten corners on the roster. He’s joined by Tre’Davious White, Alex Austin, Christian Benford, Kaiir Elam, Cameron Dantzler, Cam Lewis, Taron Johnson, Ja’Marcus Ingram, and Siran Neal. Safety Taylor Rapp also saw some reps as a slot corner on the first day of training camp.
2023 Offseason: Jackson is healthy and participating in team activities. He was the starting CB alongside White on the first day of camp.
2023 Season outlook: Look, no one is going to confuse Jackson with an All-Pro like Tre White. However, if he’s the guy who makes the roster as the fourth corner? That’s more like it. Jackson is a luxury for the Bills in the sense that he’s young, he knows the system, he has plenty of starting experience, he’s absolutely capable of average to above-average play in spurts, and he isn’t someone that absolutely has to start. I think he’ll face some stiff competition from Danzler and Austin, who both have more athletic gifts than Jackson, but ultimately, the Pitt product is going to reclaim a spot on Buffalo’s roster in 2023.
The guarantees on his contract suggest that the Bills want Jackson around, although they aren’t necessarily a guarantee that he’ll be on the roster if someone else clearly beats him for a spot. I don’t see that happening, though, as Jackson will probably make the team again. With any luck, he will play a much smaller role this year than he did last year. However, it’s good to know exactly what you’re getting with your reserves, and the team could do a whole lot worse than someone like Dane Jackson as outside-CB4.