RENTON Its difficult for a man as intelligent as Lawrence Jackson to play dumb.
I recently approached the locker of the Seattle Seahawks defensive end and tried to be coy about asking whether he had checked out the list of NFC sack leaders.
He did a little verbal sidestep before conceding that hed been informed that his three sacks put him on the top of the list.
Uh, yeah, its been mentioned to me, he said, succumbing to a creeping smile. But its not something I pay attention to. Its my job, my professional career. I just want to put myself in a position where Im doing my job at a level my employers want me to do it.
Wow, an unsolicited job review as a result of the first question. It shows that nobody is more aware than Lawrence Jackson how elevated are the expectations of first-round draft picks in the NFL.
Having started 51 games at USC (30.5 sacks), Jackson was taken by the Hawks with the 28th pick of the 2008 draft.
He started 14 games as a rookie, but after two sacks in the second game of the season, he played mostly without conspicuous results. Certainly, to most fans, his efforts were overshadowed by the performance of the second-round pick, tight end John Carlson, who led the team in receptions.
And when the Seahawks gathered for offseason workouts, head coach Jim Mora came out and proclaimed Cory Redding, a veteran acquired in trade, as the starter on the left end. At such a point, its customary to list a couple of contenders for a position, especially if one is the first-round pick from the previous draft.
But Jackson looked like a more forceful player early in the preseason, and further picked up speed in the first two regular-season games.
Lawrence played very well, Mora said after he had a sack and consistently strong play in the opener against St. Louis. We have kind of been waiting for that. All of us have been waiting for that. (Now) you have to validate it, you have to do it again and again and again. But just to see him play physical, play aggressive, have a sack and have an impact on the game ... thats a real positive for him and for us.
He certainly validated it with a pair of sacks in the second game, a loss at San Francisco.
Whats the difference?
I think a lot of it has to do with the coaches and players staying with me and understanding the growth process and not giving up on me, Jackson said. A lot of it is due to (defensive line coach Dan) Quinn and the new staff. Hes a very informative person and a very accomplished teacher.
Although he was considered one of the best players on one of college footballs elite defenses, Jackson still dealt with a fairly steep learning curve as a rookie defensive end.
You first have to figure out yourself, who you are in this league, whats good about you and whats weak about you, he said. You have to figure out how that translates onto the field and how you can put it all together and make it work for you. I had to learn that I cant do the same things that Pat (Kerney) can do, or (Darryl) Tapp can do.
When he finished his rookie year, Jackson hit the film room to sort through it all.
I digested every play from last year to see what I did right and what I did wrong, Jackson said. You grow as the year goes on, and I could see that I was much better at the end than the beginning.
His assessment of the videos?
I wasnt as efficient as I needed to be, he said. I wasnt as aware as I needed to be, and so I missed out on a lot of opportunities I needed to capitalize on because of my inexperience.
Hes capitalizing now, and three games into his second season, Jackson has looked very much like the player the Seahawks expected him to be when he was drafted.
Dave Boling: 253-597-8440