I just love the prospects of seeing Marlin, Kelvin Hayden and Antoine Bethea start in the defensive backfield for Indy. Just a gut feeling, and a little personal scouting, tells me these guys are going to make a big impact. Here's a nice piece from Colts.com about 3rd year vet, Marlin Jackson...
Colts Cornerback Jackson Preparing for Starting Role INDIANAPOLIS – Marlin Jackson can hardly hide his enthusiasm. It’s mid-May. Outside the Colts’ practice facility, the sun shines, but weather conditions have little to do with the mood of the third-year cornerback.
It’s his career, and his own condition, that has Jackson optimistic.
He’s healthy, and able to work out. Really work out.
And he said he’s ready – mentally and physically. Ready to move into a starting role. To focus on one position, cornerback. To fulfill his potential.
Mostly, he said he’s ready to play well, which despite being a crucial part of the Colts’ secondary the last two seasons – and despite making one of the most memorable plays in franchise history – the 2005 first-round draft selection said he has yet to do.
“I just feel it’s almost an epiphany,” Jackson said during the Colts’ summer-school sessions, which got underway this past week at the Colts’ facility.
Jackson, the 29th overall selection in the 2005 NFL Draft, was referring to his approach to football, which he said has changed in the past year.
Not that Jackson said he wasn’t enthusiastic about football before, but it’s different this year, he said.
Jason David and Nick Harper, the Colts’ starting cornerbacks the past three seasons, are gone, having signed as free agents with the New Orleans Saints and Tennessee Titans, respectively.
That means Jackson – who started eight games at safety last season – and third-year cornerback Kelvin Hayden are currently working as the starting cornerbacks.
“I think it will make a difference,” Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy said. “No. 1, he (Jackson) is focused in on his position and No. 2, he is practicing and working and getting grooved now.
“I don’t know if it’s a new dedication, but I think he and Kelvin realize – not that the hat’s on them – but that the opportunity is there for them. They have to step up and be the leaders. They’re excited about that, and I think (safety) Bob Sanders is excited about it, too.
“They’re looking at themselves as a young-gun secondary and they’re excited.”
Jackson said his excitement has much to do with not having to deal with frustrations he faced last off-season.
Jackson, after playing in 15 games – 14 as a reserve cornerback – as a rookie in 2005, spent much of last off-season rehabilitating. He missed much of mini-camp and summer school, and said he wasn’t able to work out until two weeks before training camp.
“I didn’t get a chance to prepare in the off-season like I wanted to because of the surgeries I had,” Jackson said. “I didn’t do anything until camp, so I didn’t get the work I needed to come into the season comfortable with all of my assignments and feeling comfortable at my position.
“It kind of stunted my growth as a player, not being able to participate in the workouts, the mini-camps, or the (organized training activities) OTAs. It really hurt me coming into the season. I didn’t feel like I was where I needed to be. It’s a different scenario this season. I made it through the season, played safety and corner. I learned a lot playing both positions. This off-season is going to help me a lot.
“I think people are going to see that this year.”
Jackson played 14 games last season, and with Sanders out 12 games with a knee injury, Jackson started eight at safety. In the Colts’ 38-24 victory over the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game,
he intercepted a pass from Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in the final 30 seconds to secure the victory.
That’s production, and Jackson said he was proud to have contributed to a Super Bowl champion. The season, he said, was far from a loss.
“I took last year as getting comfortable with the game of football, getting out on the field,” he said. “With Bob being hurt, I got to start quite a few games and get used to be being back out on the field the whole game.
“I think that’s going to prepare me for this season, too. I started eight or nine games last year, so I know what it’s like to be on the field. I know what it’s like to be out there in big-time, pressurized situations, in crunch time.”
Still, Jackson said his production over his first two NFL seasons was far from what he expects from himself.
“I don’t feel like I’ve shown what I can be and what I can do,” Jackson said. “I feel like I have a lot of ability and I haven’t maximized it.”
The process of maximizing it, he said, began last off-season. That was when he said he began studying Harper, a six-year veteran who Jackson said taught him volumes about approaching the NFL in a professional manner.
“As far as the game of football, I feel like I learned a lot last season,” he said. “I made a mistake when I came in as a rookie. I kind of felt like I knew everything. I should have been a little more observant. I had a great guy in Nick to watch my first year, but I didn’t learn that until last off-season.
“That’s when I watched how he approached workouts, how he approached the meetings . . . I picked up a lot of habits from him about watching tape and learning the game. I learned from him it’s not all physical. The mental side of the game will help the physical and help you play even better.”
Studying Harper, Jackson said, was part of his epiphany.
“I’ve learned how to be under control and calm myself down on the field,” Jackson said. “It’s going to help me out a lot. I feel so much more comfortable out there. I feel like that’s going to help me out a lot with what comes when we get rolling. I want to leave no stone unturned. If I put the work in required to be at the top level, I feel I’ll go out there and play at the top level.
“I really truly believe everything happens for a reason. The way things went thus far happened for a reason. I would have liked to have been out there right away, but maybe, at the same time I wasn’t absolutely ready. Physically, yeah, but mentally I didn’t understand the game. I have a better understand now of the game and what they expect from us.”
What Jackson said he expects from himself is improvement. Big-time improvement. Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy often has said players typically make their biggest jumps in performance from their rookie year to their second year.
Jackson said he understands the theory, but said because of his circumstances, he expects his jump to come a bit later.
“They say that (the second season) is when you tell the biggest difference,” Jackson said. “I don’t think that’s the case for me. I think now, having the proper off-season, I’ll get more of a jump this year in the way I play.
“I feel like I’ve got a lot to show people, but I challenge myself. I hold myself to a high standard. I have a lot of goals I want to accomplish for myself and things I want to go out there and prove to myself.
“I know I can compete at a high level and be a big-time player in this league.”
I hope that he can compete on a high level, because without him or Hayden stepping up, it could be a long season . Well not so long since Peyton will throw for 4000+yds and 30+ TDs. At least a winning record is pretty much guaranteed.