After an up-and-down start to the season, Adoree’ Jackson, the Titans’ 18th overall pick, faces an important test on MNF against the Colts.
Cornerback Adoree’ Jackson was considered a surprise pick by many when the Tennessee Titans selected him 18th overall. The general consensus was that the sky is the limit with Jackson, but he would need some seasoning before he would become a quality starter in the NFL.
In college, Jackson displayed otherworldly athleticism and speed making plays on offense, on defense, and on special teams, with sound tackling. At the same time, however, his exceptional playmaking ability was offset by Jackson giving up plays to opposing receivers. Of Jackson, Pro Football Focus said that he will have “teething problems”, but will be the type of player who will “turn defense into offense in the blink of an eye”.
This seems to ring true through the first part of the season. Jackson has shown flashes of brilliance in pass coverage despite being consistently picked on by opposing coordinators and has been a willing and effective tackler. On special teams, he has been an electric return man with multiple fantastic returns called back due to various penalties.
At the same time, he has given up several big plays and committed a couple of egregious penalties of his own, including one in the end zone against Will Fuller that resulted in a touchdown. These types of ups and downs are not uncommon amongst rookie cornerbacks, even ones as highly drafted as Jackson, but the Titans desperately need him to find a rhythm in the second half of the season and improve a pass defense that ranks near the bottom of the league.
Heading into a primetime game against the Indianapolis Colts, Jackson will be under a huge spotlight and the Titans need him to step up his game to match the stage upon which it is played. The Titans are on an 11-game losing streak against the Colts, and in the past few seasons, it has certainly been a mental issue since the Colts roster from last season should not have been able to defeat the one boasted by Tennessee that went 9-7 and defeated several playoff caliber teams. With both teams heading into Week 6 with a 2-3 record, neither team can afford to potentially fall two games behind the AFC South leader.
When the Titans selected Jackson, they provided one reason as to why they fell in love with him during the pre-draft process. DC Dick LeBeau said the following about his new cornerback:
"“We drafted him because he was fast, but he’s faster than fast. What we saw on video and scouting him is what we saw out here. He’s got a really good knack for the ball and tremendous burst. That’s the game today in the NFL. You’ve got people spread out all over and the quarterbacks are pretty adept at getting the ball out to them. You need people to match them, and he’s one of the kind that can.”"
One player that the Titans surely targeted with their selection of Adoree’ Jackson was Colts speedster T.Y. Hilton. Writers at Fanrag, Music City Miracles, and Fantasy Authority all anticipate that Jackson will spend a considerable amount of time matching up against Hilton. It is of the utmost importance that Jackson succeeds in his coverage of Hilton on Monday night and proves himself capable of covering one of the elite wide receivers in the NFL. With Marcus Mariota potentially out or hobbled, the defense must make an even more considerable effort to slow the offense, and to accomplish this, Hilton must be stopped.
Throughout their short time together, Hilton has proved to be the player upon which second-year quarterback Jacoby Brissett relies on the most. Hilton has put up two games of 150+ receiving yards with Brissett as his quarterback. He rates third amongst wide receivers with 466 yards despite operating in an offense with few bright spots and remains tied with Antonio Brown and Stefon Diggs for the most 20+ yard plays with eight total. He has a whopping 37 targets through the first five games and the next most targeted receivers, Jack Doyle and Donte Moncrief, only have 44 combined targets between the two of them. A plodding rushing attack puts further stress on Hilton to stretch the field and set up the run game.
Based on the above information, one can safely assume that the Colts offense will not be able to get anything going without Hilton. If Hilton does not make plays downfield to open up the running game and make critical catches to move the chains for Brissett, the Colts can count on few other playmakers to beat a defense.
Adoree’ Jackson has the perfect skillset to matchup against receivers like T.Y. Hilton, and he was drafted to remove an opposing team’s biggest downfield threat. Jackson’s ability to accomplish this goal and leverage his skillset will likely determine the course of Monday’s game. Hilton represents the biggest threat to the Titans on Monday and is the only superstar on the Colts roster with Andrew Luck still out. Superstars win games in the NFL, which is why the Titans need to shut Hilton down.
Monday provides Jackson with the opportunity to rise to the occasion on a nationally-televised game. The Titans’ pass defense has been a major liability through the first five weeks of the season. They must make a statement against Indianapolis in order to establish that they can slow down opposing passers and that their secondary truly has improved from last season’s disastrous showing. The Titans’ secondary received several upgrades through free agency and the draft, but they have yet to prove that they are any more dependable than last year’s group. They have an opportunity to prove their worth this week and this opportunity will hinge on the performance of Tennessee’s first rounder Adoree’ Jackson.