Washington Redskins linebacker Rob Jackson has been a patient man for a very long time. So, it wasn't surprising to see him signing autographs and spending extra time with fans following a radio interview Monday night.
Afterwards, he sat down with us and gladly opened up about his first NFL start, the pressure of replacing injured All-Pro Brian Orakpo and the roller coaster ride the Redskins had last Sunday with the replacement refs and the Cincinnati Bengals.
In Bleacher Report's third installment of "One-on-One with the Washington Redskins" we learned a lot about Jackson, who was drafted by Washington in the seventh round of the 2008 draft.
Who is Rob Jackson?
Jackson is a veteran outside linebacker who has spent his entire career with the Redskins.
Originally recruited to play at Syracuse, Rob chose to attend a junior college instead. After starring for two years at Fort Scott Community College in Kansas, he moved on to Kansas State, where he played with current Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman. He also met a walk-on defensive back named Jordy Nelson. Nelson, of course, switched to receiver and went on to win a Super Bowl with the Green Bay Packers.
Before Sunday, Rob Jackson was one of Washington's unsung players. In five years, he had been signed, released, re-signed, put on practice squads and activated as an injury replacement. Through it all, he dreamed of the day that his name would be called to start a regular season game.
That dream came true Sunday against Cincinnati in front of his home crowd at FedEx Field.
Chance of a Lifetime
Bleacher Report: You’ve been extremely patient throughout your five-year career. Describe the feeling you had when you ran out on the field as a starter for the very first time.
Rob Jackson: It was a great feeling. Every guy in the NFL would love to run out of that tunnel and be considered a starter. It was a long time coming. I’ve been working hard and I feel that has paid off over the years and I’m going to take advantage of it. I’m not looking back. I’m going to leave the past in the past and move forward.
B/R: Were there some butterflies for you before you took the field for your first defensive series?
RJ: Yeah, there were butterflies. But I was more anxious than I was nervous. I just couldn’t wait to go out there and prove myself as a starter.
B/R: So take us back to your first snap. What went through your mind when the Bengals lined up in a wildcat formation and one receiver heaved the ball 73 yards to another for a score?
RJ: We were in a cover 1 [defense], which obviously didn’t help us in that situation. We saw them line up in the wildcat and expected them to run. So, when they passed the ball, it caught everybody by surprise. It was a great call and great play by them.
B/R: Did you guys know ahead of time that Mohamed Sanu had played quarterback? He played QB in high school. And, as a college receiver, he tossed four touchdowns from the wildcat formation.
RJ: Our coaches knew, but we didn’t know. We were expecting run all the way, because when skill position players line up in the wildcat, you don’t expect them to throw. We didn’t game plan for it and before you know it, the guy’s wide open, running down the field to the end zone. A.J. Green is not an average Joe. He’s fast and can catch, so it was a mistake we’ll learn from.
B/R: Fortunately, the defense had a chance to regroup and you came up with a big play. Tell us how Cincinnati’s screen pass broke down and how you came away with the first interception and touchdown of your career.
RJ: Yeah, it was like two birds and one stone. I dropped back in coverage and figured I didn’t have to drop back 10-12 yards, like I usually do, because I knew the ball was coming out quick. So, when it came out, I was there and read the quarterback the whole way and he threw it right to me. I just played the ball and made a play.
B/R: And that ball is now a souvenir. Do you plan to put it on display?
RJ: That’s a good question. I got it out right now, but I have to get a case for it because that’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing. Some guys don’t ever get to score a defensive touchdown, so I’m real happy and excited about it.
B/R: How did Brian Orakpo react to your touchdown?
RJ: He was excited for me. In fact, he texted me after the game and said he wasn’t surprised. He knew what I was capable of and told me to just keep going because it’s a long season.
B/R: It’s got to be tough for injured players like Brian and Adam Carriker to watch their team compete without them. What have they said to you and linebacker Chris Wilson, who also played well on Sunday?
RJ: Rak told me before and after the game, “You know what you have to do. This is what you’ve been waiting for. You’re a hell of a player." So he had nothing but faith in me and Chris, who he knows has been around [for five years] also. It’s sad that they’re done for the season, but it’s what we signed up for. We’re football players and injuries happen, so you have to be ready to step up and do your job.
B/R: Chris Wilson combined with Ryan Kerrigan to sack Andy Dalton. What did the guys say to your fellow linebacker when he came off the field?
RJ: It was great to see another guy come in as a replacement for a two-time Pro Bowl player [Orakpo] and make a play. It was an opportunity for him too and the guys were as excited as he was.
B/R: Tell us about the resiliency of Robert Griffin III. He overcame a daunting pass rush [six sacks] and rallied your team back from two 17-point deficits to give you a chance at the end. As a rookie, how is he doing it?
RJ: He’s great. As a defensive guy, I feel like we always have a chance, no matter how much we’re down by or how much time we have left. When he’s back there and has the ball in his hands, we have a chance. Anything is possible. In our three games, we’ve had so many big plays. I’ve seen more big plays on offense then we’ve had since I’ve been here.
B/R: Alfred Morris is another rookie who’s excelled, despite knowing that he could be pulled at any time in Mike Shanahan’s carousel of running backs [which now includes former Green Bay Packer Ryan Grant]. What kind of impression has he made on you?
RJ: He has a really bright future. He’s not that big, but he’s got a real strong lower body. He’s a tough runner and keeps his legs moving. He’s just a great young player.
B/R: Alfred told the media he was “angry” about the six sacks on his quarterback. Do you like to hear that from a rookie?
RJ: Yeah. He takes pride in his job and he’s supposed to. It just comes with the territory. If you don’t care and you’re not angry about your quarterback getting sacked then you shouldn’t be out there.
B/R: With the knee injury to Trent Williams, it was a lot to ask of a rookie runner who’s still learning how to block in the NFL. But the news is good on Trent. His MRI showed just a bone bruise to his right knee. Is that a relief for the team as a whole?
RJ: Yes, absolutely. I believe he’s a Pro Bowl-type tackle and he’s been playing great football. He had a great camp and has had a great season so far, so it’s great news to know that we’ll get back a good anchor to protect RGIII’s backside.
Defending the Defense
B/R: The offense has been productive, but your defense has to do its part as well. How can your unit improve so the team has a better chance to win?
RJ: Us as a defense, we’ve got to start holding guys to 14 points or less. It’s guaranteed wins because our offense is putting up great numbers and a lot of points.
B/R: Despite another poor performance, four members of your secondary made themselves available for the media Monday. What does that say about their character?
RJ: It says a lot. It means that they’re accountable and they’re ready to step up and say, "Hey, maybe it was me that messed up." And when they’re asked questions, they’re not going to go run and hide. So, I think it says a lot about their character.
Late Game Flag and Postgame Fury
B/R: It has now been two weeks in a row that the Redskins have been called for unsportsmanlike conduct, while the offense was within field goal distance of tying the game. First there was a sack and a false start. Then the replacement refs misplaced the ball and [offensive coordinator] Kyle Shanahan went off [and got flagged]. Were the players as confused as the coaches?
RJ: Yeah. I was real confused. It’s just something we’ve got to work on. It’s unfortunate to get beat by a team that’s better than you. But it’s really tough when you beat yourself and put yourself in that situation. So, it’s just something we’re gonna need to work on and get better at.
B/R: Kyle Shanahan ran after replacement officials in a tunnel at FedEx Field and gave them a piece of his mind. He apologized in a team statement Monday [but was fined $25,000 by the NFL]. Do you think he intended to stand up for the team, but let his emotions get the best of him?
RJ: Yeah. He’s human. He got caught up in his emotions after we lost a tough, close game. Everybody gets to a breaking point sometimes and he couldn’t control himself. It was just put out there because he’s the offensive coordinator and a person in a position of power. But we don’t fault or blame him for what transpired at the end of the game.
B/R: You played at Kansas State, which is currently 4-0 and ranked seventh in the AP's Top 25. As an alumnus, how does it feel to see your school do so well?
JR: It’s great. I talk them up week in and week out because they’re doing good. They’ve got a great quarterback and good skilled-position guys and a great, legendary coach in Bill Snyder [who was named Big 12 Coach of the Week]. So, I think the sky’s the limit for them this year.
B/R: Your teammate Brandon Banks went to K-State and former Redskin Rock Cartwright as well. Are you tight with those guys?
RJ: Yeah. Me and Banks are sticking together on rooting for the Wildcats. We have a lot of confidence and faith in them. I also played with Rock when he was here, so if we have an opportunity to see K-State in the National Championship, we’ll go if we can.
B/R: And you played with Jordy Nelson in college. Are you surprised with the success he’s had with the Packers?
RJ: I’ve always had respect for Jordy. As a receiver, he had one real year at Kansas State because he had knee surgery. But he came back and put up great numbers. He’s humble and to this day, I tell people that he is one of the hardest workers I’ve been around. I’m not surprised at all by his success.
RJ: Josh has a strong arm and he’s a big guy. I do know him personally and when they came here for a preseason game, we got to talking and stuff. He’s a great athlete and can run. You can’t go in with an arm tackle. You have to wrap him up. He’s an outstanding quarterback, so we can’t make mistakes.
RJ: It’s important. If we can clean up the little things on defense, we should be good. Obviously, the offense has held up their end of the bargain and we just have to tighten up on defense. So, I don’t think it’s not far fetched that we can pull out these next three games with W’s and we plan on making it happen.
Joe Versage is an NFL Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He previously covered the Buffalo Bills, Washington Redskins and Baltimore Ravens as a television beat reporter. Follow him on Twitter at: @JoeVersage Takip et: @JoeVersage
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