Veteran defensive tackle Danny Shelton said rookie guard Jonah Jackson "had the look" and was an "aggressive kid," after going against the Lions' third-round pick in one-on-one drills and team periods very early on in training camp.
Since those comments, Jackson has earned an almost exclusive role at right guard with the first-team offense, and he and Shelton now compete on a daily basis.
It's been a quick ascent for Jackson, especially considering there was no rookie minicamp, offseason training program or summer minicamp to help get those first-year players better acclimated to the speed and physicality of the game. They've had to hit the ground running for the start of training camp, and Jackson has caught on better than most.
"It's definitely been eye opening to see what the talent is in the NFL," Jackson said Wednesday after practice. "Being a professional now, you know you get to go against veteran guys like Danny Shelton and Nick Williams and to see how you match up against those guys."
How has Jackson thought he's matched up with those two key veteran additions to the interior of Detroit's defensive line this offseason?
"I definitely feel confident in my game to be able to handle anybody," Jackson said.
The truth is Jackson has held his own at times against Shelton and Williams, and there are times the two veteran defenders have gotten the better of the rookie.
That's life in the NFL as a rookie. It's a constant battle to improve enough each and every day to be at a point in early September where you can help the team win ball games. Jackson certainly seems to be trending in that direction.
A big benefit Jackson's had in his development over the past few weeks has been the fact that he's sandwiched between two veteran players in center Frank Ragnow and right tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai.
"It definitely makes life easier being able to break down the defenses front and everything and being able to process things faster, and you have a great guy in Frank being able to point out all the calls and stuff," said Jackson, who is also being cross-trained as a backup center.
"With Big V he's a veteran guy and he's won a lot of games and he helps me hone in on my craft and become the best player I can be."
View photos from practice during Detroit Lions Training Camp presented by Rocket Mortgage on Aug. 26, 2020.
The Lions moved up in the third round of the draft to have a chance to draft Jackson. He came to Detroit with a nice resume. He started his career at Rutgers and transferred to Ohio State as a graduate transfer last year, where he won the starting right guard spot and allowed just one sack all year for the Buckeyes.
He handled that transition to a new environment in Columbus seamlessly, and is doing a nice job again a year later adapting to life in the NFL in Detroit.
"I've actually been through six different changes in college and now in the pros," Jackson said. "The scheme is the scheme. It's just a matter of being able to execute the assignment and doing it properly. You learn from your coach's install and understand the play philosophy. I wouldn't say it's too much a transition, if you're locked in and know what you're doing."
Jackson has confidence to go with an assortment of physical talent, and we're already seeing that combination suit him well as he's stepped into a significant role upfront for Detroit through the first week of camp.