Coordinator Cut-Up: Cunningham says Jackson is a starting-caliber end

Posted Dec 12, 2012

Jackson is coming off probably his best game of the season in Green Bay, recording a season-high three tackles, a sack and a forced fumble.

The Lions have plenty of decisions to make on defense this offseason with seven free-agent starters and a number of other key free-agent reserves.

Among the latter includes defensive end Lawrence Jackson, who is coming off probably his best game of the season in Green Bay. Jackson recorded a season-high three tackles, a sack and a forced fumble.

“He really played physical,” Lions defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham said of Jackson's performance Sunday. “There's one play in the game that's a highlight shot. Their left tackle set up, LJ came off the ball and crushed him. I mean knocked him through the air off of his feet. It's been a long time since I've seen a rush like that.”

Jackson played sparingly to begin the season, actually a healthy scratch Week 3 at Tennessee.

He's played in at least 43 percent of the defense snaps in four of the last five games, though, and is averaging more than 30 snaps per game over that span.

“You could see it the week before (against Indianapolis) he had a really good game too,” Cunningham said. “He's coming out to play like the guy did last year.”

Jackson had 25 tackles and 4.5 sacks in 2011.

Cunningham said Jackson is one of the smartest players within his defense, and sometimes that’s his biggest weakness.

“He studies everything and spends hours and hours evaluating himself and his opponent,” Cunningham told “ (Defensive line coach) Kris (Kocurek) has done a good job with him and whenever I get around him I just tell him, let it go. Stop thinking. Play the game.”

Jackson seemed to take his coach's advice Sunday, recording his second sack of the season and stripping quarterback Aaron Rodgers of the football during the Packers’ first possession of the game. The fumble was recovered by teammate Stephen Tulloch at the Lions' 21-yard line. The Lions scored a touchdown and took a 14-0 lead on their subsequent possession.

“A lot of people question his strength and he's one of the strongest defensive ends that came out (of college, USC),” Cunningham said. “He has natural leverage, long arms. He plays inside for us sometimes and does a great job. He knows how to do it. He's got good explosion, short area quickness. So when I saw the game, I was really excited for him.”

Jackson was one step from corralling Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck a few times in a loss the week prior.

“LJ has the ability to start in the league,” Cunningham said. “He has the tools. The frustration is that he outthinks himself, more than any player I've ever been with. And I think if he could just relax and enjoy the game a little bit, he could be a really good player.”