Secret Superstars: Oakland Raiders
So far PFF has had a solid track record of recognizing players who aren’t necessarily getting the attention that their play warrants. Now we take a look at the Oakland Raiders as our Secret Superstars article series continues. Among the Raiders we’ve highlighted in previous seasons have been Pat Sims, Matt Shaughnessy, and Tyvon Branch.
Outside of Khalil Mack, there wasn’t much to like on a raiders team that finished last in the AFC West with a 3-13 record. However, another rookie caught our eye on offense and that was LG Gabe Jackson, who stood out on the offensive line playing next to the bigger name Donald Penn.
After Lucas Nix finished the 2013 season with a -43.8 overall grade at left guard, the Raiders selected Jackson, standing 6-foot-3 and weighing in north of 330 pounds, in the third round out of Mississippi State after a first-team All-SEC senior season. He stepped in and immediately impressed, compiling a +2.7 overall grade in his first preseason game against Minnesota, notably winning against fellow rookie Anthony Barr on a pull block in the second quarter.
The rest of his preseason play was just as good as he racked up a +7.5 overall grade in 158 preseason snaps, surrendering no pressure throughout to go with more positive plays in run blocking. Jackson was particularly good in the last warmup game against the Seahawks – good enough to get a nod in our Refocused game review. Take a look at his plays in the first quarter at 11:13 against Brandon Mebane and at 0:36 sealing Bobby Wagner on a pull block.
That play in exhibition games was enough to make Jackson a day one starter, but despite his preseason success, he got off to a rocky start in the regular season, grading at -5.8 as a run blocker through Week 7 (-3.0 overall). On Oakland’s second drive against the Jets in Week 1, Jackson was bested by Damon Harrison twice, including at 1Q, 4:07 when Harrison shed outside to get in on the tackle. And Muhammad Wilkerson later got him on several fourth quarter plays to cement a -0.7 overall grade (-1.3 run blocking), though it could have easily been worse for a rookie facing one of the NFL’s best defensive lines.
In Week 3 Jackson had a similarly rough time blocking the Patriots (-2.7 run blocking), with his worst stretch coming in the second quarter where he allowed his assignment inside for a defensive stop twice in a span of three plays (2Q 14:23, 13:15). Playing the Dolphins the next week wasn’t much better as Jackson picked up two penalties and had what one of his worst plays of the season at 3:57 of the first quarter. On that play, Jackson provided little resistance as Jared Odrick easily won inside to stop the rusher short on 3rd-and-1.
Strong Second Half
The second half of the season was a different story, as Jackson managed to turn it around after a down showing in Week 7, coming out the next week with a fantastic game against Cleveland and compiling a +6.7 overall grade over his last seven games. During that span he wasn’t called for a single penalty and was particularly impressive in both facets in the team’s second game against Kansas City, surrendering just two pressures in more than 60 pass blocking snaps. And despite his overall struggles as a run blocker, you wouldn’t know it watching his performance against Buffalo’s Kyle Williams in Week 16. For examples, take look at his blocks at 11:34 and 2:00 of the second quarter and 12:03 of the third.
Jackson finished the season at +3.7 overall (+7.8 in pass protection) with a 14th-ranked 97.3 Pass Blocking Efficiency rating at the position (second-best among AFC West guards). We’re excited to see how he builds on his rookie season and progresses in 2015 – it should help blocking between Donald Penn and Rodney Hudson, two players who have been better than average at their positions.
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