One of the many joys of the pre-season is the rising of one our mid to late round picks, or even UDFAs, who rises against the odds or the expectations of them. Think like guys such as Jacquizz Rodgers, Corey Peters, and evenpro bowlers such as Brent Grimes (I have never even heard of Shippensburg). Some were projects, some came out of nowhere, and some have come to rise under the tutelage of a great coach. In case you don't know a lot about the Falcon's new offensive line coach, Pat Hill, you should read up on him at that Falcons home page, under Coaches Rosters.
Donny's Dark Horse Selection: Andrew Jackson, RG
Now I know the position selection shouldn't surprise, especially after mentioning Pat Hill, but I bet you didn't think I would select 2011 7th round draft pick Andrew Jackson, eh?A 2009 first-team Academic All-American, Jackson was an absolute bulldozer and helped Ryan Mathews to earn his first round ranking. Many people thought Andrew Jackson was one of the best guards in the country, prior to the 2010 season in which he injured his ankle in mid-September, which required surgery and didn't allow him to resume play until December.
Jackson was cut from the active roster during the severely shortened and rushed off-season last year, but he was signed to our practice squad. However, I think Andrew Jackson finds himself with an opportunity to not only make the roster, but possibly emerge as a starter later in the season.
Andrew Jackson will have the benefit of being coached by former head coach Pat Hill, who will undoubtedly know how to get 110% from Jackson. Andrew is also two years removed from injury, which means he is more than likely completely recovered from the injury that saw his draft stock plummet. There is also no denying Andrew Jackson physical upside, at 6'5 and only 295 lbs, he could easily add on 10-15 pounds of muscle after a year in a NFL Strength and Conditioning program. He also posted 25 reps at the Combine, compared to Konz's 18,
Jackson has the physical tools as well as the technique for him to be a starter, possibly even a pro-bowler, however, I think that a severely shortened off-season and perceived depth at the position led to Jackson being demoted to practice squad. I think that after a year in the system, and former college head coach Pat Hill now coaching Jackson, as well as a full length off-season/Training Camp, Andrew Jackson could very well become our #2 RG and eventual starter at RG. He certainly has the opportunity to do so.