WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. – After spending his first eight NFL seasons at cornerback, Kareem Jackson is making the switch to safety. Back in June, head coach Bill O’Brien announced that Jackson would be moved to free safety. The switch was necessary when starting safety Andre Hall was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
“It’s a challenge, but for me, I like to think of myself as being a smart player," Jackson said Sunday. “Instead of getting calls, you have to give the calls. You have to get guys lined up. You have to give the calls to the corner, the linebacker, whoever’s on your side of the field. You have to get the guys lined up. Just seeing, being there, being able to see the whole field, the whole formation and stuff like that. That’s definitely one of the biggest changes.”
A student of the game, Jackson is making the transition look easy. The nuances of his new position are coming naturally, because he chose to learn about the safety position during his days at corner.
“It comes natural, and then the last couple years I’ve been there, being able to play the ‘Star’ position, I’ve had a chance to kind of see both sides,” he said. “So, I kind of took it upon myself to learn different positions and play in that spot because I have to know where I have help. I have to know I have run fit, I have to know where the safety is and the corner also, because I’m pretty much in the middle of the field. So, it kind of comes natural for me.”
Bleacher Report calls Jackson’s switch to safety its riskiest move of the NFL’s off-season, saying it depends on the play of cornerback Kevin Johnson. O’Brien feels Jackson will hold down his end of the deal.
“He’s a versatile guy," O’Brien said. “He’s concentrating on safety now, but we actually talked this morning again – he and I – just about making sure you know the other spots, too. He’s one of those guys back there that’s kind of a utility that can do some different things. Right now, he’s playing safety but helping us on special teams doing some different things. Usually, you’re a lot more involved in the running game, but the one thing about that is he played a lot of nickel so he’s been close to the ball quite a bit in his career, which is similar to a safety position in certain defenses. So, it’s not a huge adjustment for him. He’s a smart guy. He knows how to do it.”
Jackson likes being in the middle of the action and loves the fact O’Brien has confidence in him.
“It makes me feel good. That’s one of the things that I take pride in, my game and being able to play multiple positions, being able to play corner, the 'star’ spot and now safety. For me, it’s about being versatile. If I can be versatile, I can help this team any way possible. That’s what I’m all for,” Jackson said.
The Texans are off Monday before resuming training camp Tuesday.