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Green Bay Packers RB Brandon Jackson looks quicker, more confident

9:55 PM, Nov. 17, 2010  |  Comments
The Insiders: Season 4, episode 11
The Insiders: Season 4, episode 11: Mike Vandermause and Kareem Copeland discuss the Minnesota Vikings, Brett Favre and all the noise, noise, noise in the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome. Have Rob and Pete lost their jobs to younger talent?
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The hesitation slowly is melting away for Brandon Jackson.

The Green Bay Packers running back hadn't started a football game since 2007 when Ryan Grant went down with a season-ending ankle injury in this year's season opener. Jackson became the primary caretaker of the run game despite a total of three starts during his first three years in the league.

It was impossible to predict how a career third-down back would handle the increased workload.

Early results were not encouraging. Jackson managed a combined 74 yards on 27 carries against the Bills, Bears and Lions. Things began to turn with a 115-yard outburst against the Redskins. In the Packers' last five games, Jackson has averaged 93 all-purpose yards.

To the naked eye, Jackson looks quicker.

"He's playing less tentative," right guard Josh Sitton said. "Not thinking as much about the hole or the play, or whatever. He's just hitting the hole downhill and making one cut.

"Him in the draw game, screen game, whatever, when you get him out in space he's tough to take down and that's been huge for us."

The Packers considered trading for Buffalo Bills running back Marshawn Lynch earlier this season. Seattle eventually pulled the trigger on the Lynch trade, but over his past five games with the Seahawks, Lynch has averaged just 53 all-purpose yards.

In five games with Seattle, Lynch has rushed 74 times for 217 yards (2.9-yard average). Over that span Jackson has rushed 63 times for 323 yards (5.1 average).

As the season has progressed, Jackson seems to be hitting the hole a split-second faster and making his cuts a stride sooner.

"Just being decisive," Jackson said. "Just putting my trust in the offensive line that they'll get on their guys and me just being aggressive and attacking the hole.

"Some (of it) comes with time, some comes with repetition, but it's you trusting the guys up in front of you that they'll get the job done."

A consistent offensive line helps. The No. 1 unit of Chad Clifton, Daryn Colledge, Scott Wells, Sitton and Bryan Bulaga has started five consecutive games.

"You start to feel each other," Sitton said. "Feel what the blocks are going to be. How the person next to you is going to make that block. You don't have to say things. First when Bryan got out there ? I came in and played young, too, and you're kind of out there scrambling a little bit. Bryan's a bright kid, but young kids, you're still going to worry about them. I'd be out there trying to make his call for him.

"Now, everything's just kind of rolling. He's set out there at right tackle. He's gotten a lot better, his confidence has gone up. Everybody playing together. The chemistry's there right now."

The output of the run game becomes even more vital during the final seven games. The temperature drops and, especially in the playoffs against better teams, a legitimate rushing offense is a must.

Jackson said he wants to produce more 100-yard rushing games after reaching that goal just once this season, and one way to do it is to break more tackles.

But there's no guarantee he can reach 100 yards consistently in the Packers' offense because he might not get enough attempts. He had a season-high 18 carries against the Eagles, the second-most of his career, but has averaged just more than 11 carries per game since.

"Brandon, he's just done a very good job with his opportunities," coach Mike McCarthy said. "I think everybody questioned the fact that he could be a three-down back, and that was really never the case because he just was never really given the opportunity to play as much on first and second down. ? I think any time you have a particular running back that can play on third down, you know he's ready to play on first and second down, as far as handling the amount of carries in his specific case.

"He's just really gotten better with opportunities. ? He has an extra gear that I think sometimes surprises people.He's a very powerful man, just the way he's built with his leg drive and so forth. He's not an easy guy to tackle. He's doing a better job week in and week out, and it really comes with getting more opportunities."

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If you've ever answered "Who has the ball?" with "It's halftime," you might recognize The Airhead. Check out the characters in our cartoon gallery of oddball fans.

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