Let’s hear it for LA Rams UDFA LT AJ Jackson’s solid debut
Following the career track of All-Pro offensive lineman Brandon Scherff
Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of AJ Jackson’s potential is the uncanny similarities he possesses with that of All-Pro offensive lineman Brandon Scherff. You see, the LA Rams signed offensive line coach Kevin Carberry, the same offensive line coach who brought former Iowa Hawkeye Brandon Scherff to the NFL with the fifth pick of the 2015 NFL Draft.
Jackson may not have been the apple of NFL analysts’ eyes, but he certainly looked every bit of the part of an NFL offensive tackle in training camp and in joint practices with other teams. Until the pads went on, he was just another joe schmoe, who arrived at training camp overwhelmed with the newness of everything in his world.
Just like his fellow Iowa alumni, Jackson entered the NFL under the tutelage and coaching of Carberry, a positional coach who recognizes the NFL blueblood offensive linemen from the Cyclones football team. However, unlike Scherff, this time there was no need to move Jackson inside to guard. This time, Carberry could take time with Jackson, giving him no more than he was ready to process and take on. Jackson’s undrafted status pushed him to the bottom of the depth chart, a place where it’s difficult to catch the eyes of the coaching staff.
But when the pads went on, muscle memory helped Jackson to start shining. He showed up well in joint practices with the Dallas Cowboys. In fact, he showed up so well that he moved up the team’s depth chart. When it came time to make the decision who would remain on the team’s 53-man roster, Jackson had done enough to earn that spot.
Of course, that is where his opportunities would have ended if not for the LA Rams’ sudden need in Week 16. The LA Rams entered the game without Andrew Whitworth or Joseph Noteboom, both unavailable with a positive test for COVID-19. Initially, the team had moved LG David Edwards out to tackle, and inserted Coleman Shelton in at left guard. But quickly into the game, Coleman Shelton was forced to center to take over for injured Brian Allen. That forced the Rams to return Edwards to left guard and to insert AJ Jackson in at left tackle.
Jackson held up well. In a game against the fearsome Minnesota Vikings pass rush, Jackson allowed no quarterback sacks. In fact, the LA Rams running game had its strongest performance thanks to the legs of RB Sony Michel.
The LA Rams will likely welcome back both Andrew Whitworth and Joseph Noteboom in time for Week 17. But for Week 16, the LA Rams turned to rookie AJ Jackson. Jackson responded with a solid NFL performance. It appears as though the LA Rams have another solid offensive tackle on the roster for the future.