HOUSTON -- At the start of the regular season, Kareem Jackson found himself where he ended last season: as the Houston Texans’ slot cornerback. Now, with starting cornerback Kevin Johnson set to spend his second lengthy spell on the sidelines in as many years, Jackson will find himself in a bigger role on the NFL’s reigning No. 1 defense.
In Thursday’s 13-9 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals, Jackson forced a fumble that outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney returned 49 yards to set up the Texans’ first field goal and had the first sack of his eight-year NFL career. He also led the team with seven tackles.
“I thought [Jackson] played one of the best games he’s had since I’ve been here,” head coach Bill O’Brien said. “He did a lot of different things, he blitzed off the edge, got a sack, caused a fumble, had several tackles.
“Just a very smart player, and he’s a very valuable player to our team because he can do so many different things, and he played really well.”
Jackson said he feels he’s “in a good spot physically,” two games into the season. Last year, the veteran missed two games with a hamstring injury, but otherwise was healthy. That’s important given the tough and physical style which he plays.
“That’s one of the aspects of my game that I kind of pride myself on. One of those guys that’ll get in and get dirty, tackle, do whatever I have to do,” Jackson said. “To me, I like being physical, so any time I can come out and be physical and kind of create some turnovers, maybe slow some guys up, I’m all for it.”
Jackson’s play will be even more important after Johnson sprained his MCL on Thursday. He is expected to be out four to six weeks. On Thursday in Cincinnati, despite losing cornerback Johnathan Joseph in the second quarter with a shoulder injury and Johnson later in the game, the Texans held Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton to 20-of-35 for 224 yards with no touchdowns.
“It means a lot for us to go out and play the way we’re capable of playing, especially after the way the first game went,” Jackson said. “It’s just about us going out and doing our jobs. All 11 guys all being on the same page and all having the same goals in common. It kind of shows what we can be and the way we can play if we all do it right.”
The Texans’ secondary will face a tougher test on Sunday against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. Between the regular-season game, AFC divisional round and a preseason game, the Texans have seen a lot of the Patriots lately. Jackson said it “definitely” helps to go against Brady so often. The O’Brien-led Texans have never won at Gillette Stadium.
“[Brady is] arguably the best to ever play the position,” Jackson said. “He’s done some great things over his career, so any time we can see him, whether it’s preseason [or] practicing against them, it’s definitely going to bring out the best in us as a team. We’ll have to have a great week, and we have to be ready to go.”