Kareem Jackson: Shutdown Corner

Alex Trautwig

Why is it that Rick Smith picks have a tendency to all of a sudden become dominant in their third seasons?

Kareem Jackson doesn’t do what Kareem Jackson does for Kareem Jackson. Kareem Jackson does what Kareem Jackson does because he is Kareem Jackson.

That’s right. The bar’s been raised.

Two years ago when the moniker "K-Jax" was uttered, it would simultaneously make fans shudder and quarterbacks light up like a Christmas tree. He was bad…almost historically bad. If the pass was deep, he would interfere, and if it was short, he would give the receiver five yards of cushion. Today, however…today is a new incarnation of the man they call "Action Jackson" (Actually they don’t, but they should). He can cover the long ball, he can read the short game, and he can impose his will against running backs on the edge. The kid’s done good…but how good really?

Well, Jackson generally takes on the number two receiver man-to-man for the entire game while Johnathan Joseph takes the number one receiver. There isn’t a whole lot of zone in Wade Phillips' scheme, at least not when your corners are playing as well as these two are, and a lot of the time these two DBs will be lined up on the same receiver for the whole day.

Here are the receptions and yards allowed by Kareem Jackson in the first seven games. Note these stat lines are only of when Kareem Jackson is in coverage and do not include catches made against any other defender or bubble screens behind the line of scrimmage, as those don’t really represent Jackson actually covering a defender but rather just trying to make a tackle on the ball carrier. Double note: There were only two of said bubble screens thrown at Jackson's side all year, and they both went to Kendall Wright for a total of 20 yards.

Miami @ Houston

Davone Bess – 2 catches for 17 yards.

Brian Hartline – 3 catches for 50 yards.

Kareem Jackson – 5 tackles, 2 PD, 1 INT.

Houston @ Jacksonville

0 catches allowed.

Kareem Jackson – 0 tackles.

Houston @ Denver

Eric Decker – 8 catches for 136 yards.

Kareem Jackson – 8 tackles, 1 PD.

Tennessee @ Houston

0 catches allowed.

Kareem Jackson – 2 tackles, 2 PD, 1 INT, 1 TD.

Houston @ New York

Jeremy Kerley – 1 catch for 3 yards.

Kareem Jackson – 1 tackle, 1 PD, 1 INT.

Green Bay @ Houston

James Jones – 2 catches for 27 yards, 1 TD (and it was a ridiculous one-handed catch against good coverage. You can't really fault him for that one.).

Kareem Jackson – 2 tackles.

Baltimore @ Houston

Jacoby Jones – 2 catches for 17 yards.

Kareem Jackson – 2 tackles.

The Texans have allowed exactly 1,400 receiving yards so far this season. Jackson has allowed exactly 250 of them, good for just 17% of all passing yards thrown against the Texans this year. If you eliminate the Denver game, where over half of his yards allowed came from, Kareem has allowed just 10% of all passing yards accumulated against Houston in 2012. On average, he has allowed just 2.5 receptions and 35 yards per game. Taking out the Denver anomaly, he has allowed 1.6 receptions and 19 yards per game. Throw in 3 interceptions, 1 touchdown, 20 tackles, and 6 passes defensed, and you have the makings of a special season.

By comparison, through the first seven games of the 2011 season, Darrelle Revis, widely considered the best corner in the NFL, allowed 10 catches, had 6 PDs, 4 INTs, and three games without allowing a reception against him. Considering that Revis’ 2011 season ranks among the greatest all time single-season performances for a defensive back in NFL history, the fact that Jackson’s numbers are not only comparable, but almost identical, is even more dumbfounding.

Make no mistake about it, ladies and gentlemen. What we are witnessing is a truly remarkable achievement. J.J. Watt might be getting all of the attention for the Bulls on Parade, but Kareem Jackson is quietly putting together one of the greatest defensive seasons in Houston Texans history, and by the end of January, possibly NFL history.

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