Eagles-Jaguars: The First Preseason Vendetta?
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) — It's not often that a veteran player actually wants to play in a preseason game but Malik Jackson wouldn't mind getting an extra rep or two when he returns to Jacksonville on Thursday.
A former big-ticket free agent signing by the Jags, Jackson was scapegoated a bit last season and ultimately ended up as a salary-cap casualty before the Eagles stepped up to get the lengthy interior defensive lineman as a complement to All-Pro Fletcher Cox.
“I’m definitely looking forward to the season," Jackson said earlier this week, "but luckily I have a vendetta against the Jaguars so we play them next, so I don’t have to look too far to be happy. I just have to look to Thursday."
An engaging personality, Jackson is generally unfiltered and never has a problem telling the truth. While he understands the coaching staff's goal is Week 1, not proving something to Jacksonville, the two things don't have to be mutually exclusive to the University of Tennessee product.
"I’m pretty amped about [going back to Jacksonville], bringing these guys along and telling them I need them this week," he said.
Amped up or not most of the Eagles key contributors aren't going to get much playing time against the Jaguars but Jackson wants time to work in with what is still a new defense for him and sharpen his technique against an offensive line that isn't regarded as one of the league's best.
“It should be a good day,” Jackson smiled when asked about who might be trying to block him.
Jackson, a Pro Bowl selection in 2017, spent his previous three seasons on the First Coast of Florida, playing in all 48 regular-season games he could have but was left with a bad taste in his mouth after being benched last season because of his play against the run.
While pass rushing is certainly regarded as Jackson's strength, the real issue was that Jacksonville didn't want to keep paying big money on the back end of a deal signed after a Super Bowl-run in Denver so a narrative was created.
Howie Roseman gladly picked up the baton and gave Jackson $30 million over the next three years back in March.
In the preseason opener against the Tennessee Titans Jackson got his feet wet with 11 snaps and the 6-foot-5, 290-pounder would like to see that increase against the Jags even though it may not be the prudent path for Jim Schwartz.
“I would not [be upset] because I want to go play against them," Jackson said when asked about the coaching staff potentially being cautious with playing time. "Just the fact that I feel like I still have things I have to work on as far as my get off, my hand placement, my timing with everything, so I’ll be more upset that damn, I really need to work on some things than I would be to go out and smack somebody in the face because it is preseason at the end of the day."
So how about smacking someone in the face with solid technique?
“I’d be more upset because I feel I have some things I still need to work on for when Fletch comes back so we can be better synchronized,” Jackson insisted.
Whether it's because the Jags are on the horizon is debateable but Jackson was a terror on the inside during Sunday's practice, often getting into Carson Wentz's face at the expense of guards Isaac Seumalo and Halapoulivaati Vaitai.
As the risk of channeling WWE star Bill Goldberg, Nick Foles, you're next. ... Maybe for a series or two.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen