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2018 OTAs: Jackson looking, feeling good

Jacksonville Jaguars defensive tackle Malik Jackson (97) heads to the field for an NFL football practice, Monday, June 4, 2018, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
Jacksonville Jaguars defensive tackle Malik Jackson (97) heads to the field for an NFL football practice, Monday, June 4, 2018, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

JACKSONVILLE – He looks good, and he feels good.

If both are true for Malik Jackson as Jaguars 2018 Organized Team Activities continue at the Dream Finders Homes Practices Fields this week, the second is more important.

As far as he's concerned, it's great that his offseason focus on diet and nutrition is showing benefits.

But the effects it has in a couple of months matter more.

"It's how you feel," the Jaguars' veteran defensive tackle said Tuesday after the Jaguars' eighth practice of 2018 OTAs.

Jackson, a defensive tackle who made his first Pro Bowl last season, said he decided early this offseason that he wanted to enter '18 training camp feeling the best he has in seven NFL seasons.

So far, so good.

"He really came in shape," Jaguars defensive coordinator Todd Wash said of Jackson late last week. "I know he was gone for a couple weeks in Phase 1 [of the '18 offseason program] and a week in Phase 2, but he came back in shape. His weight is down.

"We were actually talking about it [last week]. He looks good, he is running well and he took a lot of pride in coming back in shape."

Jackson registered a career-high eight sacks last season, and was a key part of perhaps the NFL's best defensive line. His athleticism and disruptiveness keyed an interior pass rush that helped the line overall register 55 sacks, the second highest total in the NFL last season.

Jackson was particularly effective the second half of the season, but said he decided following the season his best career season could have been better.

"I made the Pro Bowl last year, looked at myself and said, 'Damn, that was when I wasn't even truly caring about nutrition or truly taking things seriously,''' Jackson said. "I was eating everything I wanted, doing everything I wanted: Carvel Ice Cream Cake, fried chicken after practice …'''

Jackson said he now takes nutrition far more seriously, consistently heeding the advice of the Jaguars director of performance nutrition Mindy Black.

"I just really wanted to tell myself, 'See the best player I can be,'" Jackson said. "I'm getting older. It's going on year seven now. I want to be able to say, 'This is when I was the best player.' It wasn't about being the most athletic. I want to say I was disciplined in my nutrition and really gave my body the best fuel to go out and say, 'Those were the best years of my life, toward the end of my career.'

"When guys get older, they drop off. I want to make sure I keep climbing this mountain."

Jackson said improvement next season could be "all about consistency."

"That's a big deal for me – not being wavy, not digressing," he said. "This year it's about being a Pro Bowler again, getting more sacks for the team, being All-Pro and winning the Super Bowl. Pro Bowl and All-Pro are my personal goals. Super Bowl and more sacks are my team goals. It's about progressing and my growth as a player."

Part of that effort is his participating in these three weeks of voluntary OTAs, something he said he considers important "because you build camaraderie."

"You get to show coaches who you are," he said. "You can show them you're really learning and taking in information. Plus, we have a lot more information this year than we did last year."

And when Jackson reports to '18 training camp along with the team's other veterans on July 25, he said it won't be a particular weight that tells him his offseason changes have produced desired results.

And no, he said, he absolutely won't be back to the Carvel.

"No, no, no, no, no," he said, laughing. "It's one of those things: you know what you're doing in the offseason, you know what you're eating, you know if you're working hard. My thing in the offseason is I like to say, 'Did I beat the best defensive tackles today? Did I win today? Did I beat the [Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle] Aaron Donalds'? Did I beat the [Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle] Geno Atkins'?'

"I won't know because I don't know them like that, but I know if I put the hard work in, if I eat right … it's everything that has to do with the game. You know in your head if it [what you have done in the offseason] is what you need to do."

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