When the Broncos selected Jackson in the fifth round of the 2012 draft, they liked the idea that Jackson had started at both end and tackle at Tennessee. And they hoped he could be a rotational player at both spots initially who, with time and a little good fortune, could grow into more. But then Jackson showed some pop in pass-rush situations as a rookie and Del Rio was quick to play him up front in the specialty looks on defense.
Then he started to appear more and more in rotations, both inside and outside, even playing in front of the Broncos' No. 1 pick this past April, defensive tackle Sylvester Williams. Then Sunday, with defensive end Robert Ayers sidelined with a shoulder injury, Jackson got plenty of work early and often in the Broncos' 35-19 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
“Malik, man, he came up big,'' said Broncos defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson. “A young guy who went in there and made things happen. That's what you want, you want guys to go in when we need them to and make things happen.''
Make things happen? With the Broncos having pushed the lead to 28-19 with just over four minutes remaining in the third quarter, Jackson didn't just make some things happen -- he had the series of his football life.
With the Jaguars looking at a first-and-10 at their own 20-yard line, Jackson sacked Jacksonville quarterback Chad Henne for a 7-yard loss on first down. On second down he tackled Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew for a 1-yard loss. And on third down, on a stunt with defensive end Shaun Phillips, Jackson sacked Henne for a 5-yard loss.
Overall Jackson finished with seven tackles, the two sacks and a pass batted down. The quick-witted Jackson was asked to talk about his first sack following the game.
“What happened on the first play?'' Jackson responded. When he was told it was a sack, he said: “Of course, I forgot what happened. Then the second play we had a great call by Coach Del Rio, I did my job and made the play. The third play, I had the second sack and Shaun Phillips just made a great play and I came around and got the sack. So I really got to give thanks to Shaun Phillips."
Certainly, since Del Rio has routinely promised to find a spot in the defensive scheme for those who produce when given the chance, Jackson could be looking at even more action in the coming weeks. He has three sacks in the past two games combined. Coming into the game Jackson had played 43 percent of the defensive snaps this season.
“You know, the greats keep it up, that's what I've said, it isn't just one week and that's it," Jackson said with a smile. “Last week was my first sack and this time I had two, hopefully they just keep falling into my lap. But I don't want it to be one game and that's it. I want to keep helping the defense, whatever they need me to do, whatever Coach Del Rio says the job is, I want to do the job.”