ENGLEWOOD, Colo. –Whether he's been shedding blockers, gaining a push into the backfield or standing his ground against the run, defensive end Malik Jackson has bustled with activity on the Broncos defensive line throughout training camp.
For the second-year pro, it's a testament to having a full offseason of engaging with the playbook and developing a more comprehensive understanding of how an NFL defense operates.
"The first year you're just scrambling just to know stuff and get on the field and make plays," Jackson said. "The second year, you really calm down and really get in the book. All aspects of the playbook—not just what you do, but what you know everybody does. It really helps, that second year."
Although Jackson didn't register a tackle against the 49ers in the first preseason game, he was highly animated on the line, getting into the backfield and applying pressure on the quarterback.
It was an early example of Jackson's performance on the practice field translating into a real game situation – something that he says is a gratifying feeling, and something he'll continue to try to accomplish as the preseason goes on.
"It's really nice when it starts to translate," Jackson said. "I've just got to go out there on Saturday and perform again when the lights show up. I'm just trying to work hard and earn a spot."
Jackson did earn his spot last season, making the team's active 53-man roster and seeing action in over 100 snaps, registering five tackles in 2012.
Seeing the field in meaningful contests last season provided Jackson with a strong framework for developing his game and his comfort level in leaping from year one to year two.
"Pretty much experience," Jackson responded when asked what he benefitted most from in his rookie season. "Just knowing how stuff works and knowing how everything goes, how to relax and know that it's just football. That's what really helped me out."
Jackson also noted that the defensive line unit as a whole has formed a supportive camaraderie that has been helpful.
"Even though we have competition in the room, we still all help each other out," he said. "We have no issue going on the field and somebody asks what to do, we'll tell them."
"We help each other all the time. We're still a group."
But, as Jackson noted, it's ultimately an individual responsibility to truly flip the on-switch in game situations.
"The big thing is going out there and actually doing it," he said. "We can tell you everything but you've just got to go out there and perform."
And as the preseason moves forward, that's precisely what Jackson will aim to accomplish.
"The same way as I approach every game. Just go in there and try to have a great week of practice and really work on my skills and what I need to do," Jackson said. "And then just go out in the game and perform the same way."
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