The day three pick out of Miami certainly had a following when the Cowboys decided to draft him, but his questionable athletic profile and lack of top-notch production in college made him a bit of an afterthought for most fans.
Then the pads came on, and Saturday night's preseason opener started. And Joe Jackson had himself a night.
The rookie finished with four tackles as a run defender in his preseason debut, and brought some pressure as a pass rusher as well. At 6'4″ 275 pounds, Jackson is a long and strong defensive end who can use that power and length to overmatch offensive tackles at times. Jackson has heavy hands as well, and plays with a motor that Rod Marinelli must love to watch.
His lack of explosion or bend worried me coming out of college, and I thought he'd be a better pass rushing option on the inside. Though he can certainly be a base 4-3 defensive end on most downs.
He made me, and many draft “evaluators” eat their words on Saturday. Still, it was just one of four preseason games, let alone the 16 meaningful games which lay ahead. The Cowboys have a pretty excellent defensive line group right now, though Robert Quinn's suspension muddies the waters at defensive end a bit.
Dorance Armstrong has stepped up during camp and appears to be the clear starting end opposite DeMarcus Lawrence for week one against the Giants, and despite a disappointing first two seasons Taco Charlton is still a former first round pick who the team may look to be patient with for as long as possible. Dallas also added very Kerry Hyder through free agency this season, though being on just a one year deal it would be easy to part ways with his contract if need be.
Joe Jackson may just be a fifth round pick, but he's put himself in a good position to compete for a final roster spot thus far in camp and the preseason. The road ahead for Jackson to find his way amongst this stacked depth chart will not be easy, but if he can stack performances like he had on Saturday night together, he'll be just fine in Dallas.