2022 will be Kareem Jackson’s 13th season in the NFL, and his 4th as a member of the Denver Broncos. It may also mark the 4th, and potentially final, chapter of his partnership with Justin Simmons to form one of the NFL’s most dominant safety tandems of recent years. The 34 year old is easily the most experienced player on the Broncos’ 2022 defense, and that experience can be a invaluable resource for the younger guys around him.
Entering the league as the 20th overall pick of the 2010 NFL Draft, Jackson spent his first 9 years patrolling the Texans’ secondary as a cornerback. He built a reputation for playing hard, which probably contributed to Jackson missing a couple of games most years. It was that aggressive approach that appealed to the Broncos during the 2019 offseason, though. Denver signed Jackson and moved him to safety.
Coming to Denver afforded Jackson the opportunity to revisit Houston in Week 14 of that season- a game in which he absolutely wrecked his old team. In addition to racking up an incredible 11 combined tackles, Jackson intercepted Deshaun Watson and knocked down 3 more of his passes.
Not satisfied with that, Jackson was there and waiting when Jeremiah Attaochu recovered a Keke Coutee fumble (courtesy of Alexander Johnson). With Texans draped around the linebacker’s legs, he turned and simply handed Jackson the ball- and Jackson took off, dodging and weaving through his former teammates on his way to a 70 yard touchdown run. With 3:52 still to go in the 1st quarter, the score was already 14-0 Denver.
#22 Kareem Jackson
Weight: 183 lbs
Experience: 13th year
I’m sure Jackson would love to have an equally crushing performance against the Texans again, when they travel to Denver to play the Broncos on September 18th.
How Jackson fits with the Broncos in 2022
As things stand today, Jackson looks like the favorite to continue starting alongside Simmons. But unlike the previous 3 years, 2022 brings some significant challenges the veteran safety will have to overcome. With his contract value shrinking substantially from last year, and far below the $11M/year average from his original 3 year deal with Denver, it’s clear that the Broncos are preparing to eventually switch to a younger starter in his spot.
That kind of change is just part of the circle of life in the NFL. But when & how it happens depends largely on the quality of play Jackson brings in 2022. There’s a lot of young talent behind him on the depth chart, with guys like Caden Sterns & PJ Locke looking like potential future starters. Denver also added a talented 5th round rookie in Delarrin Turner-Yell in this spring’s draft.
Again, Jackson very likely gets the first shot at starting. But if he has a bad couple of games or has to sit out a few games due to an injury, one of those young guns may seize the job and not give it back.
Jackson appeared to slow down a little last year. He’ll need to recover that step if he can, and stay healthy, in order to have a great 2022. The younger guys will still be seeing some snaps as dimebackers even when he’s on the field, so the competition will be direct and potentially stiff.
However that turns out, I really hope we get to see Jackson & Simmons roaming the secondary together in the playoffs next January... and hopefully February. After 3 great years of watching the pair play together, that would be a fitting potential final chapter for Jackson as the NFL’s wheel of time keeps turning.