Jaguars' Jackson has something to prove against former team
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) After getting two sacks against Buffalo last week, Jacksonville Jaguars defensive tackle Malik Jackson received a playful text from former teammate Von Miller.
''He said my dance was ugly,'' Jackson said Wednesday. ''He's a hater.''
Jackson will get a chance to change Miller's mind in person Sunday when the Jaguars (2-9) host Denver (7-4). It will be the first time Jackson faces his former team, and a chance to ''show those guys who I am on another team.''
Jackson left the Super Bowl champions to sign a six-year, $85.5 million contract with Jacksonville in free agency. As far as the Jaguars are concerned, Jackson has been worth the hefty price tag.
''He's playing really well up front,'' coach Gus Bradley said. ''If he's not doing something, just ask him. If you don't think he's hustling, challenge him and he'll hustle more. What I didn't expect from him is his presence on the field as far as a leader. I think he has no problem challenging guys to a standard.''
Jackson has 4 + sacks this season, including three in the last two games, and a team-high 11 quarterback hurries. He was at his best against the Bills , getting those sacks and making another tackle 30 yards downfield. After each sack, he pretended he was combing his hair back like a 1950's greaser. Miller wasn't impressed with Jackson's celebration, but lauded the rest of his performance.
''I already know what he is capable of, so it doesn't surprise me,'' Miller said.
Jackson is trying to treat the game like any other even though he admits to circling it on the NFL schedule.
''I can't be selfish even though it's a lot of things for me `cause it is my old team and I know a bunch of those guys,'' he said. ''It should be fun to see those guys again, but we have to go out there and get a win and that's where my focus is this week.''
Jackson has helped revamped Jacksonville's much-maligned defense, getting partial credit for turning one of the league's worst units into a group that ranks sixth in total yards. He's been stout against the run and even better against the pass, collapsing pockets and leaving quarterbacks with little room to roam.
He was equally effective in Denver and came up big in the Super Bowl when he dived on a fumble for a touchdown against Carolina. That play certainly increased his market value and helped him land the big free-agent contract.
He has said repeatedly that he wanted to see how he would fare without playing alongside disruptive pass rushers Miller and DeMarcus Ware.
''So far, so good,'' Jackson said. ''We still have a few more games to go and I know I can get better. Right now it's looking good, but we can always get better.''
Jackson and Miller figured last year the Broncos wouldn't be able to keep both of them. Denver placed the exclusive-rights franchise tag on Miller in March, a move that essentially had Jackson packing his bags.
Miller eventually signed a six-year deal worth $114.5 million to stay in Denver. It included $70 million guaranteed.
''We knew deep down what was going to happen, but I was happy for whatever,'' Miller said. ''I am always for guys going and getting paid.''
Jackson plans to earn every penny of his deal and hopes to help the Jaguars get back on track after nearly a decade of losing, something he has yet to get acclimated to. After losing 14 games in four years in Denver, Jackson is closing in on double-digit losses in his first season in Jacksonville.
He created headlines in early November by saying he felt there weren't enough fans at EverBank Stadium for the team's game against Oakland, and that the ones who were there weren't very loud.
''It's definitely been hard,'' he said. ''There are totally different things going on here than there was in Denver. It sucks that we're 2-9 right now. It sucks, but every week you see things getting better and you see us getting better. We're soon to peak.''
Maybe it will happen against his former team and give him another reason to dance.
''It's a big game for me for a lot of reasons,'' Jackson said. ''But like I said, I can't let the moment get too big and be selfish and do things out of my character outside the defense.''
For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL