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Jonah Jackson started all 16 games and played over 1,000 snaps (1,006) as a rookie in 2020 for the Detroit Lions. A third-round pick by Detroit last year (No. 75 overall), Jackson had a 96.7 efficiency rating as a pass blocker from Pro Football Focus and allowed five sacks all season. He was solid as a run blocker.
Like all rookies who evaluate their first season in the league, Jackson identified some things he needed to improve, and spent this offseason trying to address some of those things.
“Just taking care of my body better and being a pro in that aspect,” Jackson said. “Handling my diet and staying on top of my weight. Just getting stronger, bigger, smarter. Trying to dial in as much as I can to help myself this next year.”
Jackson joked that one of the biggest things he’s changed as a professional is less trips to Taco Bell and White Castle. He keeps a close eye on his calorie intake.
Jackson is expected to start at left guard between left tackle Taylor Decker and Pro Bowl center Frank Ragnow. Jackson is no longer the youngest member of an offensive line group that’s expected to be one of Detroit’s strengths in 2021. That distinction now belongs to Penei Sewell, who the Lions drafted No. 7 overall in this year’s NFL Draft to be their new right tackle.
“They say he’s a 20 year old, but he acts like a grown man with how he handles himself,” Jackson said of Sewell. “Not only the meetings but outside on the field. Definitely on the field you see why he was the No. 7 overall pick. It’s very evident and I’m excited for his future and what’s to come for him.”
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With Sewell in the mix, plus the expectation of Jackson taking a big leap in year two and veteran right guard Halapoulivaati Vaitai being healthy after an injury-plagued 2020, the Lions have a chance to be one of the better offensive line units in the league.
“It starts upfront. We’re the engine to the car,” Jackson said. “It starts with us and if we’re not clicking the rest of the operation can’t go. I’m excited to get rolling with this group. I think we can be the best. It’s just a matter of how far we want to go and how we attack each week.”
Best of 2021 Detroit Lions offseason photos
View some of the best photos from Lions offseason workouts, OTAs and rookie minicamp.
Jackson said the goal is to increase the team’s average yards per carry from 4.1 last year to over 4.5 this year. He was asked what an acceptable sack number would be, but Jackson said one sack allowed is too many and refused to set a benchmark number. The Lions allowed 42 sacks last season, the 10th most in the NFL.
Jackson played both guard spots in training camp last year. He played mostly left guard during the regular season, but did have to move to the right side early in the year to accommodate for injuries. He seems pretty set on the left side heading into training camp and this season, and he likes that stability.
“There’s definitely some comfortability playing that position (left guard) more and more now and being at the left guard next to Decker for year two,” Jackson said. “But if something happens and they need me to switch around and do whatever I need to, I’m a team player and ready for it.”