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Film analysis: Is Adoree’ Jackson a true No.1 cornerback?

What does last season say about Jackson’s ability to be the Giants’ top cornerback?

Las Vegas Raiders v New York Giants Photo by Dustin Satloff/Getty Images

Arguably the best strength of the 2021 New York Giants was their experienced and versatile secondary. The 2020 Giants’ defense improved from 30th to ninth in opponent’s points against; many expected an improvement under new coordinator Patrick Graham, but the 2020 defensive surge inspired hope at the end of the 6-10 season where the Giants were conceivably one Doug Pederson decision away from somehow winning the NFC East. Perhaps that hope was injudicious.

Nevertheless, the Giants went all in on the 2021 season. One of the biggest - some, at the time, would argue only - liabilities on the 2020 defense was the second starting cornerback spot opposite Pro Bowl talent James Bradberry. The Giants traded a late Day 3 selection for Isaac Yiadom at the start of the 2020 season, and he struggled to play man coverage consistently.

Yiadom had a rocky start, and injuries paved the way for Ryan Lewis, who surrendered several big plays against Dallas and Philadelphia that facilitated close losses for New York. It became apparent that the Giants needed to find more reliable secondary help to assist Bradberry and a talented safety room.

Fast forward to the 2021 free agent period. The Titans inexplicably released former 2017 first-round pick Adoree’ Jackson. Jackson recently spoke on Steve Smith’s Cut To It podcast that Mike Vrabel’s coaching style was not for him; this was likely a primary contributing factor to his release.

The Giants signed Jackson to a three-year, $39 million contract. Many argued that Dave Gettleman overspent on Jackson, but the going rate for cornerbacks during the free agent period was similar. Shaq Griffin received a three-year, $40 million contract from Jacksonville, and William Jackson III received a three-year, $40.5 million contract. Neither of those two players is discernably better than Adoree’ Jackson, although debate can reasonably ensue.

2021 Statistics

Jackson was the second cornerback behind James Bradberry, who primarily handled number one receivers. Jackson allowed 34 catches on 61 targets - a 55.7 percent catch rate. According to Pro Football Focus, of CBs who played at least 50 percent of their teams’ snaps, Jackson had the 14th best catch rate, surrendered the third least amount of yards (304), and wasn’t penalized once all season.

Jackson had the fourth highest coverage grade at CB. The corners to finish ahead of him (at least 50 percent of snaps) were Jalen Ramsey, A.J. Terrell, and Darius Slay. Jackson had five passes defended and one interception. He didn’t have many splash plays, but Jackson did a solid job leveraging his processing, instincts, and his overall athletic ability. It was evident on film that Jackson studies tape and understands offensive tendencies and route concepts.


Several times throughout the season, Jackson did a great job understanding offensive intentions and limiting the success of an offensive play. Many of these play types are in zone due to the conducive nature of reading and reacting while the offense attempts to clear the CB out of a location.

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Philadelphia runs a smash concept to the boundary off of play action; they create a three-level read for Jalen Hurts (1) with the running back entering the flat to gain the attention of Darnay Holmes (30). The curl by DeVonta Smith (6) in the smash concept runs at a depth of 15 yards, while the corner route breaks at about 18 yards from the line of scrimmage. Jackson stays in his turn - backside towards the sideline - and uses his peripheral vision to read the concept. Jackson is aware of the outside leverage Smith has on the safety; once he sees the corner route materialize, he sinks underneath the route, providing no space for a successful throw. In a savvy manner, Jackson whips his head around, locates the football, and doesn’t get flagged as he puts his hand through the catch point to force the incompletion on second-and-10.

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To the field in off-coverage, Cover-3, Jackson does an excellent job seeing through the clearout route to get his eyes on the No. 2 receiver in the 3x1 set. The No. 3 receiver runs an out to the flat to occupy underneath defenders, and the 1 and 2 WRs run a scissors concept. Jackson sees the flat route from the No. 3, keeps his eyes dialed on the quarterback, and quickly reacts as the corner route breaks. Jackson beats the receiver to the catch point to force the incompletion.

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The Giants align in a two-high defense, and Washington runs another variation of the smash concept to attack the honey-hole between the flat defender and deep half safety. Jackson gives his under-call on the in-breaking route while quickly pivoting to cut off the angle of Logan Thomas’ (82) corner route. The throw is to the boundary - a shorter distance - and Jackson makes it almost impossible for Taylor Heinicke (4) and Thomas to advance the football on a second-and-long.

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Jackson almost comes away with an interception here against the Raiders. New York runs an inverted Cover-2 coverage where the two cornerbacks take deep half responsibilities. The safeties trap and play more of a Tampa-2 MLB role - hence another name for this coverage Inverted Tampa-2. Jackson does a solid job keeping his eyes on Zay Jones’ (7) over route; both safeties react to the route in the Yankee type of concept (with two underneath receivers to hold the second-level players in place). Jackson then sees the deep post by Bryan Edwards (89); Jackson gets to Edwards’ inside hip and does a great job playing the football while narrowly missing an interception.

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The Giants are in a Cover-4 Match type of defense with simulated pressure. Carolina attempts to run a slant-flat to the boundary with Jackson in off-coverage. Sam Darnold reads the pressure and sees Lorenzo Carter (59) drop to the boundary while Reggie Ragland (55) plugs inside. Jackson knows the coverage, trusts his eyes, and flies downhill to deliver a big hit on the tight end to force a third down.

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Jackson executes discipline in the flat off play action rollout. Washington sends both receivers up the field to open up the flat against the Giants’ Cover-2 shell. Jackson is the flat defender, but he does a great job gaining depth while keeping his eyes on the receiver leaking out of the backfield. Jackson positions himself well enough to force Taylor Heinicke to check it down, which is when he darts downhill to make a hit for a small gain.

Press man

Press is an alignment; jamming is an action.

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In a reduced split just off the hash, Jackson aligns in outside leverage against Edwards. Jackson initiates clean contact and doesn’t allow Edwards to create space up the stem and into his break. Jackson is right in the hip pocket of Edwards, and he does a good job harassing the receiver as he attempts to catch a tipped pass by Tae Crowder (48). This is a good example of tight man-to-man coverage in a high leverage situation.

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Jackson does a great job squeezing Breshad Perriman (16) towards the sideline, effectively eliminating his operating space. Jackson goes for the quick jam and bail; Perriman uses patience at the line before committing to his outside release, but Jackson does a great job flipping his hips outside and staying on top of Perriman. The only access Tom Brady (12) has to complete this pass is a back shoulder throw to Perriman, which Jackson seems to anticipate at around the Buccaneers’ 46-yard line. This is an excellent example of his potential of Jackson. He shows adaptability, technical acumen, and great fluidity/athletic traits to force this incompletion.

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Jackson is against Courtland Sutton (14) to the field in a Cover-1 Robber to the weak side where the trap player is the pre-snap safety to the field, resulting in Jackson being outside the single-high safety’s divider. Jackson does a good job carrying Sutton vertical and staying in his hip pocket, effectively providing limited space for Teddy Bridgewater (5).

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Jackson aligns inside leverage against Tajae Sharpe (4) and does a solid job utilizing patience and waiting for Sharpe to declare outside before flipping his hips. It’s Cover-1 with a six-man pressure package, and Jackson is to the field; he does a good job staying on top of Sharpe’s route and not providing any space for Sharpe to operate.

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The Raiders align in a reduced stack to the field side with Edwards on the line and Hunter Renfrow (13) off the line of scrimmage. Jackson shades inside and jams Edwards; the coverage is two-high man, so the middle of the field is the most vulnerable. We see Jackson concede ground and lose his balance against the stronger Edwards. Jackson recollects himself and works underneath Edwards’ release. He does a good job getting back in phase and forcing a tough catch over the middle of the field. Edwards doesn’t come away with the reception.


By my charting, 16 of the 34 catches and 163 of the 304 yards surrendered by Jackson were in man coverage (including press man). Jackson can execute man coverage, and he was routinely in solid position last season.

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The Saints are in a 3x1 set, attempting to get into field goal range. It’s a third-and-5 stop by Jackson from off-man coverage on an under route with the No. 2 receiver running a corner and the No. 3 clearing out the middle of the field. Jackson immediately reads Ty Montgomery’s (88) release and comes downhill at a good angle of attack. Jackson covers the nine yards of separation and forces the fourth down.

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The Buccaneers align in a 3x1 set and attempt to create traffic for Jackson on Tyler Johnson’s (16) under route. Brady sees the coverage pre-snap and knows where to go with the football while hoping that Chris Godwin’s (14) outside release creates enough traffic against Jackson to give Johnson space. However, Jackson works over the top of Godwin’s release, squares up to Johnson, and delivers a good strong tackle for a minimal gain.

Almost interceptions

I would say fans perceive Jackson in a somewhat favorable manner. If he caught the football last year, he would be anointed as the next Emlen Tunnel.

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This is a great play by Jackson, pressing and riding Olamade Zuccheaus (17) up his inside stem, maintaining contact and getting his eyes on Matt Ryan (2). Jackson sees the play design is to Kyle Pitts (8); he does a great job coming off Zacchaeus and almost securing the interception that may have won the Giants the football game, but he couldn’t secure the pass. Putting himself in this position, with all the traffic around him, is a testament to Jackson’s ability to stay poised and calm under pressure.

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Jackson handled the fun responsibility of covering Tyreek Hill (10) one-on-one deep. The defense flows with Patrick Mahomes (15), which leaves the middle of the field open. Jackson is off and in outside leverage, and he keeps pace with Hill as the speedy receiver stems inside. This would have been a touchdown with a good throw, but Mahomes had to contort his body and throw against the grain since he rolled to his left, prompting the isolation between Jackson and Hill. The ball is slightly underthrown, and Jackson gets underneath Hill to narrowly miss this interception.

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In off-man coverage at the end of the first half, Jackson almost wrestles this football away from Demarcus Robinson (11). Jackson locates the football, squeezes the sideline, stays on top of Robinson, and puts himself in a position to have a better chance at the football than the receiver.

This is the one interception that Jackson had last year. A ball tipped in the air on a play where there appears to be a miscommunication against Tampa Bay.

Vs. Screens

Jackson did a great job reading, recognizing, and reacting when the offense ran screens in his direction.

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Jackson uses his quick ability to come downhill. He squares up, positions himself well, uses the sideline to his advantage, and enthusiastically fights through blockers.


Jackson isn’t Jalen Ramsey as a tackler, nor is he a liability. He’s 5-foot-11, 185 pounds, so the hit power isn’t always consistently jaw-dropping. However, he doesn’t shy away from contact, and he does a good enough job slowing players down in space.

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Carolina uses the tap pass with a lead blocker to the boundary. This forces Jackson to be a primary contributor in run support. For Jackson, this play sets up similarly to a screen; he has to defeat lead blockers and disallow D.J. Moore (2) from getting outside. Jackson gets outside and forces Moore to think. He then eats the block and squeezes Moore out of bounds. Benardrick McKinney (49) does a great job undercutting Ian Thomas’ (80) block and closing the inside lane for Moore, facilitating indecisiveness. Good play by McKinney and excellent positioning by Jackson.

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The Cowboys run a fast three in the direction of Jackson, who is in zone coverage with his hips turned inside towards a streaking Ezekiel Elliott (21). The fast three - Tony Pollard - catches the football in the flat with about ten yards to operate. Jackson pivots off his outside foot, redistributes his weight towards Pollard, comes to balance, and sticks Pollard in open space for a solid tackle, forcing a third-and-long.

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Jackson reacts to the reverse and does a great job following his assignment and positioning himself outside to help make the tackle.

Areas of improvement

We witnessed Jackson work in the slot last season when opposing teams attempted to attack the middle of the field. He has the skill-set to operate sufficiently in the slot, but many of the catches he surrendered were on horizontal crossing and dig routes in the middle of the field.

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The last GIF was not in the slot but on a dig route by Tim Patrick (81) where Jackson did not anticipate an inside break, resulting in a lot of separation over the middle. That play was on a fourth-and-7; it’s not a negative trend for Jackson to surrender catches in high leverage situations, but this is one play I remember that was a disappointment.

Touchdowns surrendered

Jackson surrendered two touchdowns last season. Unfortunately, we all remember the one against current Giant Ricky Seals-Jones.

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Scott Turner calls a great play against the Giants with two verticals from a double-Y set to the boundary. Logan Thomas’ vertical held safety Logan Ryan (23) in place long enough to create a mismatch against Ricky Seals-Jones (83) and Jackson. The big tight end just used his size, concentration, and ball skills to make an impressive catch that was placed very well by Heinicke. Jackson was not in a bad position, but sometimes you lose.

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It’s hard to fault Jackson for this touchdown surrendered against Cooper Kupp (10) and the Rams. The inside release by Van Jefferson (12) created a rub that Jackson could not undercut or work over; this gave Kupp and Matthew Stafford (9) plenty of space for an easy pitch & catch touchdown in the flat. This is a great play call from a reduced set in the red zone by Sean McVay. New York was caught in man coverage which was confirmed by the pre-snap movement of Robert Woods (2); that movement also drew James Bradberry (24) away from the outside, giving the play design a lot more operating space.

Final thoughts

Jackson quietly had a very good first season with the New York Giants. His zone instincts and his excellent athletic ability provide foundational traits to comprise a formidable starting cornerback in the NFL.

However, Jackson is now forced into the limelight of No. 1 cornerback responsibilities. Early in his career, Jackson was the number one cornerback for the Titans; he surrendered ten touchdowns in his first two seasons in the NFL. He was only 21 and 22 years old.

Now, a grizzled veteran of 26, Jackson will look to lock down the outside in a Wink Martindale scheme predicated on man coverage success. Losing Bradberry opposite of him will place a burden of responsibility on Jackson. He can be successful in the number one cornerback role.

Jackson was one of the better number two cornerbacks in the NFL last season. He is now the number one guy. Jackson has the potential to be a consistently good starting cornerback in the league. He will look to shut down the likes of A.J. Brown, Terry McLaurin, and CeeDee Lamb within his division. That is no easy task.

Jackson has to stay healthy, trust his technique, and forget mistakes. Jackson has not played an entire season since 2018. In order to maximize his potential, he must stay healthy; it is crucial. The capability to actualize his skill-set is there to be seized, but Jackson needs to put it all together and prove it consistently as the number one cornerback in this Martindale scheme. Let us hope to enjoy that realization this season.