JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser spent time this week with defensive tackle Malik Jackson, discussing three questions as the Jaguars prepared to play the Denver Broncos at EverBank Field Sunday
The topic: Old friends, new foes
The background:Jackson, who signed with the Jaguars as an unrestricted free agent from the Broncos during the 2016 offseason, on Sunday will play his former team for the first time. Jackson played four seasons with the Broncos and was a key player in the team's Super Bowl-championship season in 2015.
The question:A lot of players might say playing their former team isn't a big deal. You've been very open that it's a meaningful game. Why the candid approach?
The quote:"I'd be lying. It's one of those things where I try to be transparent, so I'm not going to lie because you'd know I'm lying. This is a game I've had circled since I got here. It means a lot to me – not because it's the Denver Broncos; it's because of how things went down in the offseason with free agency, with me loving that place and with them getting me outside my comfort zone. They allowed me to come here, which is a blessing – but it wasn't exactly at that time what I wanted to do. Now, I just feel like I have to go show that they let somebody go who was a real asset. That's my main focus – to go out there and let them know how big of an asset I am – now I came here and did this and I'm the same player and it's not like I was a product of that defense at all."
The topic: The moment, the meaning
The background:Jackson said he has had this game circled since signing with the Jaguars for many reasons, including just what the Broncos meant to him early in his career as a fifth-round selection in the 2012 NFL Draft from the University of Tennessee.
The question:What do you think the moment will be like? And how did the team you're playing Sunday shape you as a player?
The quote: "It will be special seeing those guys. I'm picturing running out of the tunnel. You've got the Broncos warming up right there. That team brought me in. [Then-Broncos Head Coach] John Fox brought me in and allowed me to grow with them. [Then-Broncos defensive coordinator] Coach [Jack] Del Rio allowed me to grow and gave me time and allowed me to mess up and didn't cut me. It was a blessing and that's maybe what set me apart from guys who come in and maybe don't make it to where I'm at as far as accolades and financially. Not everyone has a coach to take the time and nurture them. That's one of the blessings I had in Denver, was that they were able to nurture me and give me time and see my potential and get it going and get it out."
The topic:Meeting expectations
The background:Jackson signed an unrestricted free agent contract with the Jaguars that could be worth $90 million if he plays through the duration. While many NFL free agents struggle to adjust to their new organizations, Jackson has flourished and his consistent disruptiveness on the interior of the line is a reason the Jaguars are dramatically improved defensively this season.
The question:You said during the offseason you wanted to fulfill your contract and meet expectations. Many players say this, but you did it. How?
The quote: "I think it's seeing these guys around here [in the Jaguars' locker room]. We're competitive. We're friends, but we're 'frienemies.' We all want to be the best. We all want to compete at a high level. We all want to be out there in the crucial situations, so I think what keeps me going is knowing that to the Jaguars, Malik is one of the best. I have to keep it at a high level so these guys here see that I am a real doer. I want these guys saying, 'Well, damn, this dude really is a true doer; maybe I can learn something from him.' It's more about just showing these guys in this locker room that I am worth every penny and I'm not someone who came in and fell off. I want to show growth and show these young guys how I got it and how I keep intending it."