He wasn’t exactly the most high profile free agent, but new Browns running back Brandon Jackson was a great pick up for Cleveland. He is exactly what this team needed.
Peyton Hillis will still be the meat and potatoes back for the Browns, as long as he stays healthy. But in Jackson the Browns have a change of pace back, and an insurance policy for Monterio Hardesty. Jackson quickly showed a surprising burst of speed when thrown into the mix at camp last night. He bumped a run designed for the inside and eluded defenders on his way around left end. And then he did it on the right side.Not known as a speedy back, Jackson certainly has enough of it to make some plays.
What Jackson does best, is often seen on third downs. He is a good pass protection blocker and has good hands coming out of the backfield. That was his specialty role for the Packers until injuries forced him to the spotlight last year. He had his best year as a pro, gaining 703 yards rushing and 342 yards receiving. He had 43 receptions and gained 3.7 yards rushing per carry.
Last year the Browns relied on Peyton Hillis too much. He was injured a few times and had to push through those in order to stay on the field. Had the Browns been able to spell Hillis effectively, it could have saved some wear and tear on his body and made him more effective when on the field.
Monterio Hardesty is the leading candidate to spell Hillis, even though he still hasn’t participated in full go practices in pads. The Browns say they are being cautious with him as he continues to recover from the ACL injury from last season. That may be true, but eventually Hardesty will have to see live action, and Jackson provides some depth at running back in case Hardesty’s injury troubles continue.
A crowded backfield in Green Bay made Jackson expendable. After mulling his offers, Brandon said he thought this gave him the best opportunity to contribute. “It was the best offer and best opportunity for me and my family.”
Jackson went to college at Nebraska, where he averaged 5 yards per carry. His last season there in 2006, Jackson gained 989 yards rushing.
Last year the Browns caught lightning in a bottle with the Peyton Hillis trade. Certainly we shouldn’t have the same expectation for Brandon Jackson. But I think we can feel better about the RB position as a whole knowing that he is there with Hillis and Hardesty.