A day-by-day Broncos player breakdown is something we've been doing since our days at BroncoTalk nearly a decade ago. This year the tradition continues as we look at the Denver Broncos roster heading into the 2015 season in our 90-in-90 series.
Name: Malik Jackson
Position: Defensive end
Height: 6-5 Weight: 293
Age: 25 Experience: 4
Malik Jackson has been dubbed "the most underrated Bronco" by The Denver Post. He was named the Denver Broncos' "secret superstar" (whoops, wrong link - there we go) by ProFootballFocus.com. Unheralded compared to the likes of Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware on the Broncos' defense, Jackson nevertheless left an impact on opposing offenses. Whether it was terrorizing Philip Rivers to help the Broncos sweep the San Diego Chargers in 2014 or abusing the entire Jacksonville Jaguars' offensive line in 2013, Jackson has been steadily ascending into the realm of well-known Broncos defenders over the past two seasons.
He was awarded with impressive monikers that befit the 4-3 hybrid defensive end/defensive tackle.
Will they fit the 3-4 defensive end?
The good: Jackson has proven versatility that makes one believe his transition into Wade Phillips' 3-4 scheme should be seamless. He projects as a 3-4 defensive end, but given his Swiss-Army-knife-like utility in years past, Jackson could see himself in several positions on Phillip's D-line. According to PFF, in 2013, Jackson lined up at Interior DE for 50% of his snaps, Edge DE for 18%, DT for 17%, and Nose Tackle for 13%. He had at least nine QB pressures from each position. PFF broke down one such series of success that saw Jackson shine in several positions.
To see Jackson's versatility in a nutshell, look no further than his single-handed destruction of a Jaguars drive in that aforementioned Week 6 matchup. On 1st-and-10 with 4:02 left in the third quarter, Jackson lined up in a wide stance off the right tackle. He kept contain on a bootleg and chased the quarterback down for a sack.
On the next play, the Jaguars ran power straight at him. Jackson stonewalled the pulling guard and tackled the running back for a loss. On third down, Jackson lined up inside as a nose tackle, then sped around the helpless right guard on a stunt for another sack. Three straight plays, three tackles for loss by Jackson.
The bad: Jackson hasn't had to carry a full load of Broncos snaps, enjoying a heavy rotation with other defensive linemen, leaving doubts he can have the same type of productivity when called to take on 70% of the snaps or more. While Jackson has been successful in run support as a 4-3 nomad, he'll likely be called upon to more specific two-gap responsibilities as a 3-4 end. He has the speed, but does he have the strength to play the five-technique consistently? That may not jive with his recently stated goal of double-digit sacks in 2015 (although, as J.J. Watt has shown under Wade Phillips, it is certainly possible).
Quotable: "I'm built for whichever scheme they put me in," Jackson said during OTAs. "I don't want to subject myself just to one scheme. I think it's just if you can play, you can play no matter what scheme you play in. I'm just trying to adapt and forget the things I learned three years in a row and learn the things they want us to do here."
Status: Projected starter as a 3-4 defensive end, Jackson will compete with the likes of Derek Wolfe, Vance Walker, and Antonio Smith for starting reps.