ENGLEWOOD — When Kareem Jackson walked over for the interview, decked out in a blue and green plaid suit and shiny white kicks, I expected him to say, In Jay-Z style, "Allow me to introduce myself. I am H-I-T."
A quick scan of his YouTube reveals that Jackson plays with swag and aggression. He looks diminutive in person, but jumps off the screen with his presence. This is not an accident. After watching his highlights for a half hour, I should have ask him if he carries his insurance papers during games. He causes collisions.
None was more eye-opening than his crush of Broncos star Phillip Lindsay on Nov. 4. General manager John Elway called it the running back's "welcome to the NFL" moment. For Jackson, it represented business as usual.
"I am going to bring a physical style. I want to impose my will. That's what Broncos fans can expect from me," Jackson said last week. "I actually ran into (Lindsay) in the cafeteria (at UCHealth Center). It's a mutual respect. I have a ton of respect for the way he runs the ball and plays the game. He plays with a chip on his shoulder. I am excited to be his teammate. But yeah, man, I am looking for hits like that. I want to make plays that change the game."
With two signatures last week, the Broncos altered how the industry views their secondary. The Broncos added Jackson, a hybrid corner and safety with a thirst for tackling. A few hours after Jackson's introductory presser, former Bears standout Bryce Callahan joined Denver. Callahan excels in slot coverage. Overnight, the Broncos' foursome of Jackson, Justin Simmons, Callahan and Chris Harris Jr. demands attention.
"I have seen on Twitter people referring to it as the No Fly Zone, 2.0," Jackson said. "That was a great group that was here before. Now, we are looking to make our own mark."
With Jackson and Callahan in the fold, it frees Broncos coach Vic Fangio to color outside the lines. Bears linebacker Khalil Mack called Fangio an "Evil Genius" last season. Callahan referred to Fangio as "The GodFather." Give Fangio versatile players, and results follow. Consider this: The Broncos posted 17 interceptions, while allowing 26 touchdowns last season. The Bears? Try a league-best 27 picks with 22 scores permitted.
Jackson remains a critical ingredient to creating similar success in Denver.
“It gives us a lot of options. Just from week to week we might be able to line him up where we feel he best fits to defend the team we’re playing. He’s smart enough to learn all the different positions. He’s proven it in games and on tape that he can execute the positions, not just know what do to do, but play them competitively and at a high level," Fangio said. "It’s a big advantage and it helps when you’re looking at other players that you have guys that can move around.”
Jackson, who was part of Nick Saban's first recruits that helped launch Alabama's dynastic run, prides himself on being coachable. And adaptable.
“With the secondary, I had a chance to watch the guys in Chicago a lot this year. They played some great defense. I’m pretty good friends with (Bears cornerback) Kyle Fuller, and he has said nothing but great things about Coach Vic," Jackson said. "For me, just getting a chance to play with my eyes, be instinctive and react. I don’t know a DB in this league that doesn’t want to be in these types of defenses where they can kind of see the quarterback, read, react and make some plays on the ball.”
The Broncos benefited from in-your-face, SaranWrap man coverage for several seasons. They won Super Bowl 50 with the philosophy. But as the personnel changed, so did the outcomes. Last season, the Broncos stubbornly stayed in press coverage despite having one shutdown corner in Harris. The Broncos allowed 56 passes of 20-plus yards, including 11 touchdowns. Chicago yielded 39 20-yard plus completions and seven scores. In the modern NFL with caffeinated offenses, it can be argued preventing big plays remains as important as making them.
For Jackson, both things can be true. He hopes to sharpen the Broncos with his edge.
"It can spark your team or it can cause turnovers or things like that. Obviously those things can definitely work in our favor," Jackson said. "Throughout my career, I’ve just always been that type of guy -- kind of get down in the line and be physical and tackle.”