There are some things that can’t be taught, and 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans believes that Drake Jackson’s athleticism is one of them.
Jackson already has shown his ability to affect the pocket in his two preseason appearances. The rookie pass rusher might not have recorded a sack yet, but his time will come, given his ability to stay in the play when most linemen would not be able to.
“Drake is unique in a way that he still finds a way,” Ryans said Monday. “Even if he's falling, he's still working his way to the quarterback. For him to slip on that pressure and still affect the quarterback, most guys, they don't have that type of athletic ability.”
“And that's what I call God-given ability that some guys have and Drake, he has that. It’s not something that you coach or teach. It's just something he has uniquely within himself to be able to be effective.”
Jackson’s ability to “bend” was noticed by teammate Nick Bosa when the rookie arrived in Santa Clara for OTAs. Bosa shared that he wished he had the same ability as his younger counterpart when the Pro Bowl pass rusher entered the league in 2019.
Jackson’s tumbling background could be part of the reason he is able to keep his balance even when his body is in awkward positions. The USC product loved spending time on trampolines when he was younger, and already demonstrated his back flip skills during training camp.
“He's always in a play because of his ability to still maneuver, make plays, even when you think he should be out of it,” Ryans said. “In some kind of way he pops up and he's still able to make a play, so it's fun to watch. It's fun to see him really grow this past week.”
San Francisco 49ers
Jackson was on the field for 14 plays of the 49ers' first preseason contest vs. the Green Bay Packers, leaving the game with what looked to be a significant injury. After finding out it was only a stinger, the USC product wanted to go back into the game, but Ryans thought it best to make him wait.
In Minnesota, Jackson’s workload increased. The rookie was on the field for 28 plays and was credited for a pass break-up and two tackles. Ryans has been impressed by Jackson’s effort on the field.
“For us, you have to be physical, you have to strain,” Ryans said. “You have to make plays in the run game if you're going to be out there for us. Not just get out and just rush the passer on passing down. We always tell our guys, you have to earn the right to rush the passer and you earn the right to rush the passer by stopping the run. You have to pay the price and he's done that.”