Rookie defensive back Dane Jackson has spent his first season in the NFL moving between the Buffalo Bills practice squad during the week and the Bills sideline on the weekend.
In four games, Jackson has tallied 12 total tackles, recovered a fumble against the Arizona Cardinals last Sunday and also picked off a pass against the New York Jets in his first career start. He’s also deflected three passes and earned the respect of his defensive coordinator.
“He’s shown that the game isn’t too big for him when he’s gotten his opportunities and he’s made some plays for us,” Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said on Monday during his press conference. “That warrants our being able to take a harder look at how to best utilize some of his strengths and minimize whatever those weaknesses are. He’s shown some strengths that really get you excited about his potential.”
Ever since their Week 7 matchup with the New York Jets, Jackson has received two starts when guys like Josh Norman or Levi Wallace couldn’t go due to injury or other factors. Against the Jets, Jackson received the news that he was going to be starting on 48 hours’ notice and showed that he was prepared.
His opportunities have been limited though as he’s also playing in a crowded secondary that includes both Wallace and Norman, along with Tre’Davious White and Taron Johnson.
In order to find a full-time role, Frazier believes the former Pitt Panther just needs to continue taking advantage of his opportunities.
“It’s good to have a guy like Dane who is capable of stepping in and helping you out,” Frazier said. “We’ll just see how he progresses as time goes on.”
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Forcing His Way Onto the Roster
At times throughout this season, Jackson has been a guy that the Bills can’t afford to leave on the sideline. In four games, two of which he’s started, he’s made plays that have allowed the Bills to steal momentum.
Against the New York Jets, in his first career start, Jackson picked off a pass just before halftime that put the Bills in position to drive down the field and kick a field goal that cut New York’s lead to 10-6. The Jets only gained 4 yards the rest of the game as the Bills went on to win 18-10.
Jackson only played in four snaps in a 44-34 victory over the Seattle Seahawks but he did play 58 snaps against the Arizona Cardinals before suffering an injury that forced him to leave the game. But, he did come back in the fourth quarter.
Before his injury, Jackson recovered a fumble at the beginning of the third quarter that gave the Bills a short field, which allowed them to scored a touchdown in three plays and go up 23-9.
With the way he’s been playing during his rookie season, Frazier said they are lucky to have him.
“We’re fortunate to have Dane and we’re looking forward to keeping him right here in Buffalo,” Frazier said.
From Pitt Panther to 7th Round Pick
In his four seasons at Pitt, Jackson compiled 148 tackles, four interceptions, 43 pass deflections, four forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. He was one of the main reasons Pitt’s secondary became as strong as it did during his time in Pittsburgh as he played alongside Paris Ford and Damar Hamlin.
After a senior season in which he started all 13 games and was selected to the All-ACC second-team, Jackson entered the NFL draft and was drafted by the Bills in the seventh round with the 239th pick.
Jackson spent the first six weeks on the practice squad but ever since being elevated to the active roster before Buffalo’s second matchup with the Jets, he’s made a name for himself.