John Schneider has made quite the history of identifying low-risk/high-reward trade prospects who have often materialized into impact players for the Seattle Seahawks. The list is long, but just to name a few: Marshawn Lynch, Justin Coleman,
Charlie Whitehurst. And more recently, he has talked his fellow GMs into sending a couple of talented, stable starters on the offensive line up to the Pacific Northwest. Of course, I am talking about Duane Brown and Gabe Jackson.
While the price to acquire Brown’s services was considerably higher (and reasonably so, Brown is a phenomenal player, All-Pro, and continues to be the most stable and consistent force in front of Russell Wilson), the latter was apparently only deemed worthy of a fifth round selection in the eyes of his former team. And while Jackson may not have the decorated career of Duane Brown, he is a capable and experienced veteran who was viewed as a presumptive starter immediately following the trade. And this proved true through the offseason, as the team decided to shift second-year player Damien Lewis to the left side after he put together an All-Rookie campaign at right guard in 2020. And while Lewis has made the shift quite well thus far, how has Gabe Jackson looked after two weeks of football? Read on to find out.
In the first two tweets, we get to see a bit of a mixed bag. For Seattle’s opening drive touchdown in Week 1, Russell Wilson is fortunate that Rashaad Penny steps in to provide some assistance, as Tyquan Lewis blows right past Gabe Jackson with very little resistance. Even though Rashaad doesn’t provide much help, he steps in just enough to keep Lewis from getting his hands on Wilson. There is definitely some reason for concern here, as Tyquan is quick (he ran a 4.69 40 at Ohio State’s pro day) but he hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire since Indy made him a second round pick in 2019).
In the second clip in the same tweet from Michael-Shawn Dugar, however, we get to see an entirely different Gabe Jackson. Facing DeForest Buckner, fresh off his first All-Pro selection in 2020, Jackson digs in and holds his ground. Buckner tries to use his long arms to get some extension from Seattle’s guard, but to no avail. Gabe holds his block without holding his man, and keeps Buckner several yards away from his QB for the nearly four seconds that it takes for Wilson to dial up his patented moon ball.
Also ridiculous.— Dugar, Michael-Shawn (@MikeDugar) September 12, 2021
(Side note: this is why you trade for Gabe Jackson, the right guard in this highlight) pic.twitter.com/ElR1ZHwe9h
Here is another angle of the touchdown where you can really see how clean the pocket is for Wilson, and we get a much better angle of Jackson’s stonewalling of Buckner.
Pass protection was on point most of the day for the #Seahawks, but I'll still say this is one of the cleanest pockets Russell Wilson has ever had. Then throws the perfect rainbow ball to Tyler Lockett... Picturesque. pic.twitter.com/3WaO0gSJ4x— Corbin K. Smith (@CorbinSmithNFL) September 15, 2021
DeForest tries to use his length and strength to get separation but fails, and then tries to bust out a rip move. Gabe does come a bit off balance, but his ability to reset and stay with his block without sacrificing any ground is a testament to his strength and footwork. Seeing Jackson handle one of the league’s tougher interior pass rushers in Buckner is impressive, but gives me a bit of pause when compared to the clip above; perhaps Seattle’s newest OG is going to be better at handling power than speed, which is generally what I would expect from an interior o-lineman. However, this could still prove to be problematic playing in the NFC West where teams have rushers like Aaron Donald (4.62 forty) and JJ Watt (4.84 forty) who can line up and rush inside and out and pack both speed and power into their wide repertoire of QB chasing expertise.
Even though the bright spots in last week’s OT collapse against Tennessee may be clouded by the overall disappointing nature of the loss, there were still some moments that were absolutely worth revisiting, especially from the first half.
In this play, Gabe Jackson and Brandon Shell team up and send Jeffrey Simmons backpedaling with a strong initial push. It may not seem like much, and a good part of the reason this play succeeds is due to the blocking scheme in and of itself; but this is a good example of the value that Jackson can provide in pass protection. After he and shell have their defender mostly out of the play, they reset and keep dropping to keep an air tight pocket for Wilson. Simple as it may be, this is a testament to the veteran value that Gabe (and Brandon, who unfortunately will be out this weekend) can provide.
But the struggles in pass protection are definitely a concern. The clip below highlights (lowlights?) this.
The #Titans used a TEX stunt (tackle-exchange) on their second sack on Russell Wilson.— Samuel Gold (@SamuelRGold) September 19, 2021
The interior OL didn't pass off the looper well so the RG Gabe Jackson got exposed. Bad communication upfront. #Seahawks pic.twitter.com/INzv3RA2S3
Denico Autry and Jeffrey Simmons put the Seahawks O-line on the hot seat and take Wilson to the turf. Again, this is an example of Jackson struggling with finesse over power, as he and Kyle Fuller absolutely fail miserably to handle a fairly basic stunt. Hopefully, this play is an example of poor communication, as Samuel Gold suggests, which should improve as the line gels together over the course of the season.
One final example of where Jackson may need to improve; in the play below, Gabe is not at fault for the penalty (illegal formation — tackle uncovered, very little he can do about that), and had the play actually played out, it would have been a very positive gain for Seattle. Which is why it is odd that Jackson does so little to influence the outcome.
The second TE screen to Gerald Everett was such a great call. Shane Waldron and Russell Wilson caught the Colts in a blitz. Shame it didn't count pic.twitter.com/SlGKmGErJs— Parker (@ParkerLewes) September 19, 2021
While I certainly wouldn’t call this a “bad” play for #66, I also think it serves to show where he may provide less value going forward; he is not a speedster, even for his position, and while his initial check on the defender lined up across from him is good — it gives Wilson just enough time to get a clean look at Everett on the screen — he then hustles but does little to get out and actually block for the Seahawks’ tight end. Compare this to Damien Lewis, who displays some excellent quickness to get out and take on two Colts DBs while he leads the way for Everett. Maybe this is just one play, but I would like to continue to monitor how Jackson performs in a scheme that require a lot of lateral movement, which is expected to be a feature of Waldron’s offense in more ways than one — the outside zone and stretch zone running plays being another example, but more on run blocking below.
In the following clip, Corbin Smith is highlighting Kyle Fuller, but Gabe Jackson makes a play worth highlighting of his own.
Kyle Fuller's signature play of the first two games of the season came in Indy, when he worked off combo block with Gabe Jackson to seal DeForest Buckner inside and create a tight crease for Chris Carson to explode through for 33-yard pickup. #Seahawks pic.twitter.com/OSg3SUkiEy— Corbin K. Smith (@CorbinSmithNFL) September 22, 2021
After the initial hit on Buckner, Jackson displays some great lateral quickness to slide back over and put enough of a body on Bobby Okereke that it keeps Carson clean and gives him a great lane to work with. And we all know what Carson is capable of when he has a little bit of daylight.
Since the Hawks got away from the ground game in week two, the best examples of Jackson’s run blocking that I could find came on Chris Carson’s touchdowns.
For Carson’s first six of the day, the Seahawks entire o-line dominates the opposition as the whole unit washes to the weak side. Wilson looks like he is running the zone read, but we all know at this point that the likelihood he will keep is slim-to-none, so for all intents and purposes this is just an inside zone run. And while the whole line should be commended for this one, Jackson in particular stands out, as he forces the pile to continue to move, ultimately taking three defenders to the turf with him. Power, power, and more power. For the second TD, Jackson teams up with Shell and they drive Teair Tart off balance and into the end zone. Tart never even has a chance, and this is more easy money for a back like Carson, and another great example of Gabe’s powerful capabilities as a dominant runblocker. Running may not be as valuable as passing (or even close for that matter), but getting touchdowns in the red-zone matters no matter how you do it. This is one particular area where the ground game will continue to provide value for Seattle, and with a back like Carson lining up behind a blocker like Jackson, I have high hopes for what lies ahead.
Conclusions, analytics, and so on
According to Pro Football Focus, Gabe Jackson has yet to allow a sack on the season (although I would argue that he surrendered at least half of a sack in Sam Gold’s clip above). However, he received a pass blocking grade of 55.2 through Week 2, which is not great. Compare this to his serviceable-to-good run blocking grade which is approaching 70 and I think we are confirming what we have seen this far. While I understand that feelings towards PFF scores are mixed (to say the least), I feel like these grades corroborate what the eye-test has indicated; so far, Jackson has looked better as a run blocker than a pass protector, and while he has had some positive moments doing both, he is still digging his cleats in on the O-line, so to speak. That is to say that I expect some early struggles, and also fully expect Gabe to continue to look better as the weeks progress. But that also isn’t to say that I’m not at least a little bit concerned about the issues in Pass Pro.
In week one, he gave up a couple pressures, which isn’t great. But in Week 2, he combined with Kyle Fuller to allow 10 pressures on the day, up to and including one on the overtime “safety” that somehow wasn’t. Damien Lewis, Brandon Shell, and Duane Brown all performed much, much better, giving up a combined total of two pressures (one each for Lewis and Shell, and zero for the always incredible Brown). This absolutely will need to improve going forward. And of course, as always, not all of this is on Gabe. Russell Wilson reverted to some of his worse tendencies against the Titans, especially later in the day, and as we all know at this point, sacks and pressures are frequently just as much on the QB as they are on the o-line. But it takes two to tango, and Jackson will need to keep improving if he wants to keep dancing. And he will have the opportunity to lace up his dancing cleats and put on his best moves when the Seahawks step onto the field at U.S. Bank Stadium tomorrow to take on the winless but dangerous Minnesota Vikings.