Austin Jackson is the most important piece of the Dolphins offensive line
The Miami Dolphins used the 18th pick in the 2020 NFL draft on USC offensive tackle Austin Jackson. After selecting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa with the fifth overall pick, it was extremely apparent that the offensive line was going to be addressed multiple times within the next six rounds.
Austin Jackson’s story is quite remarkable. Prior to his final season in college, he donated bone marrow to his little sister. Jackson says he was inspired by his sister’s “fight to live”. This tremendous display of his character is one of the things that made Brian Flores and the Miami Dolphins fall in love with him.
After returning from the surgery, Jackson had to knock off some rust early in the season. Despite not having an off-season like any other player, Jackson was able to come back and play well. He played all 13 games for USC in 2019 and even earned first-team all PAC-12 honors.
On the field, Jackson has all the tools to be a star left tackle at the NFL level. He fits with the Dolphins preferred body type of bigger trench players, standing at 6-5, 322 pounds. He was one of the most athletic offensive linemen in the draft. He has the requisite foot speed and movement skills to excel in pass protection and shine in the run game.
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For Jackson to produce in the NFL, it’s all about putting his tools together consistently. Multiple times in 2018, particularly in the bowl game against Iowa, he struggled with power. A.J. Epenesa got the best of him, and it was ugly. He’s raw. There is no doubt about that. Not having a real off-season prior to his final season certainly plays a role in his lack of refinement.
With all this being said, what does Austin Jackson look like in 2020? Well, he is still going to look raw. Brian Flores and the Dolphins’ coaching staff pride themselves on being teachers. They are willing to take players with more athletic upside and help them refine their game when they get in the building.
Early in the season, Austin Jackson is going to struggle. In weeks two and three, he will match up with his nemesis A.J. Epenesa and then Josh Allen of the Jacksonville Jaguars. He follows that up with back to back matchups with the San Francisco 49ers and Denver Broncos. In the final game of October, he gets to face Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram of the Los Angeles Chargers. That is his September and October schedule, and it is absolutely brutal.
Combine this schedule with two consecutive less than ideal off-seasons, and it is apparent that expectations for Jackson should be low early on. He would have been the biggest beneficiary from a real off-season working with his coaches and teammates. Towards the end of the season, especially around the bye week, Jackson will begin to settle down and start to play well. Jackson is a pick for the future and has some great upside.