Under pressure: Kareem Jackson

Perhaps no underachieving player in the division gets more, steady, public cover from his team than Kareem Jackson, the Texans’ cornerback heading into his third year.

He was the 20th pick of the 2010 draft, when I felt like the draft went off the course the Texans expected and they got a little panicky. The talked about how pro ready he was coming out of Alabama and they made him a starter from the very beginning.

But even in an upgraded secondary last season, he couldn’t secure a full-time job, splitting work at the cornerback slot opposite free-agent addition Johnathan Joseph with Jason Allen, who’s now gone. (Nate Dunlevy of Bleacher Report recently wrote about Jackson as on the hot seat in Houston.)

Jackson doesn’t play with the confidence the Texans seem to try to instill with the constant reinforcement, often appearing timid. He got better under new defensive back coach Vance Joseph, but he still qualifies as the weak link in the defense.

Perhaps Brandon Harris, a mid-round draft pick from 2011, will get in position to challenge Jackson or provide a security blanket. Perhaps the team will draft a cornerback to fill Allen’s role. Perhaps it will pick up a veteran down the road when some shake free out of training camps.

But ideally, Jackson would graduate and become the player the Texans like to say he is. If he does, the defense has the potential to be as good as it was a year ago, when it often carried Houston.

Gary Kubiak was fond of saying both Jackson and Allen qualified as starters. Jackson played 55.73 percent of the Texans’ snaps on defense, Allen played 49.05 percent.

Getting only a bit more than half-time work out of a first-round draft pick hardly qualifies as a success. It’s only Year Three. Plenty of players emerge to play their best at this stage.

Receiver Jacoby Jones was a candidate here, but I fully expect the Texans to add a wide receiver who would take playing time away from Jones. Jackson should be counted on to play more, not expected to play less.

If I am a coordinator planning for the Texans, I’m making an effort to go after Jackson until he shows me he can make plays to slow me down.