Tale of the Tape: Adoree’ Jackson vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 16: Marcus Mariota
PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 16: Marcus Mariota /

A look at how Adoree’ Jackson fared against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Prior to the 2017 NFL Draft, Tennessee Titans cornerback Adoree’ Jackson, a product of USC, received comparisons to Bengals CB Adam Jones. Both are undersized corners that have superb athleticism and the uncanny ability to make things happen with the ball in their hands.

However, if his first ten games as a pro are any indication, Jackson will be a much better player than Jones. Off the field issues aside, Jackson’s versatility, athleticism, and sticky coverage skills seem to be far better than Jones’.

Against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday Night Football, Jackson had another impressive performance. He played in all three phases of the game, and again showed the traits that define his game. Those traits are athleticism, versatility, explosion, effort, and hand use.

Jackson got his first target on the Steelers’ first drive of the game while covering receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, who was running a go route on the right sideline. As usual, Jackson ran stride for stride with his former college teammate all the way down the field and broke up the pass with just one outstretched arm.

It took Antonio Brown, the best receiver in the NFL, for the Steelers to get their first completion against Jackson. Brown, who ran a sharp comeback, was well-covered by Jackson until he finally broke back toward the ball at the end of his route. It’s hard for anyone to cover Brown, who explodes into every part of his routes.

For the third week in a row, Jackson was given the opportunity to touch the ball on offense. It is extraordinarily rare and essentially unheard of for a team to give their starting cornerback multiple snaps on offense during a game, regardless of how athletic they are. The last cornerback to get the volume of offensive opportunities that Jackson has was Deion Sanders.

That being said, putting Jackson on offense makes a lot of sense for the Titans from a schematic standpoint. Their running game has struggled immensely to get anything going, mainly because neither DeMarco Murray nor Derrick Henry has shown an element of explosiveness. So, they occasionally put Jackson, the most explosive athlete on the team, on offense to touch the football.

Jackson’s first offensive snap against the Steelers was a handoff. He was lined up to Marcus Mariota’s left hip in the shotgun, with Murray near the line of scrimmage essentially playing tight end. Jackson took the give, accelerated outside, then turned back inside where he saw the hole.

The Titans weren’t done getting Jackson involved on offense after this play. Later in the same drive, Jackson lined up as a receiver and tried to burn Pittsburgh’s defense down the field. He motioned out of the backfield and ran a go route, but the design was well-covered by the Steelers. Mariota found his secondary receiver, Rishard Matthews, for a first down.

The following two plays are quintessential examples of Jackson’s constant, relentless effort. First, near the end of the first half, Jackson is again playing man coverage on Brown. His initial coverage is good, but he is beaten across the field once Ben Roethlisberger leaves the pocket. However, his speed and effort allows him to quickly catch up to Brown from behind and punch the ball out for his second forced fumble of the season.

Finally, in the second half, Jackson is again beaten by Brown, this time on a post route. Again, however, Jackson’s speed allows him to catch up to Brown while the ball is in the air, hit him once it arrives, and jar it loose to force an incomplete pass.

The fact that Titans defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau was comfortable with consistently isolating his rookie cornerback against the best receiver in the NFL is very telling. Jackson has been outstanding as a rookie, and he continued his success against the Steelers.

He’s become a wonderful complement to free agent signee Logan Ryan. That pair has transformed the Titans secondary in less than a year.