What 49ers need to see out of Jackson to make D-line impact


Drake Jackson showed a lot of promise during 49ers training camp and the early portion of the 2022 NFL season.

At the conclusion of the defensive end's rookie season, there was a clear picture of how Jackson can put himself into better position to be a major contributor into December and January.

“It was a long season,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said on Wednesday. “And I think he learned as a year goes, if you lose any power in this league, it gets a lot harder.”

The 49ers selected Jackson with the No. 61 overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. He drew rave reviews from teammates and then-defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans.

Jackson registered three sacks in the first six games of the season and appeared well on his way to providing a nice one-two pass-rush punch with Nick Bosa on the other side.

But as the season wore on, Jackson appeared to get weary and completely fell out of the defensive line rotation.

The 49ers declared Jackson inactive for five of the final six weeks of the season, including all three playoff games.

“We had a decent group of rushers and as the year went out and towards the end, it got too long for him, and his body wasn't quite ready for what we needed,” Shanahan said of Jackson.

The door was open for Jackson to make a major impact in pass-rush situations on a team that struggled to find anyone other than Bosa to generate consistent pressure on the quarterback.

Bosa led the NFL with 18.5 sacks this season. The next-best 49ers sack artists during the regular season were Samson Ebukam (5) and Charles Omenihu (4.5). Both Ebukam and Omenihu are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents.

Shanahan suggested Jackson hit the “rookie wall” during his first season as a professional player.

After playing 10 games his final season at USC in 2021, Jackson discovered the realities of a grueling NFL season. The 49ers played three preseason games, 17 in the regular season and three more in the postseason.

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Shanahan indicated there is little question Jackson has the talent to play in the NFL.

Now, he must put in hard work during the offseason and overcome the mental challenges that are required for players to experience success in the NFL.

“He's got the ability to really help us, so we're counting on him to do the right things to maximize his ability,” Shanahan said.

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