Oakland Raiders rookie left guard Gabe Jackson was one of the best offensive linemen in college football in his final two seasons with the Mississippi State Bulldogs, and he started all of his game at the left guard position in college. After a standout college career, Jackson has picked up right where he left off here in the preseason, putting forward two solid displays to open his career against the Detroit Lions and Minnesota Vikings. Showing solid pass protection and run blocking against both NFC North squads, Jackson has displayed good physical and mental tools.
He recently received some nice praise from Raiders head coach Dennis Allen, who noted Jackson’s strong instincts. Allen said, via the San Francisco Chronicle’s Vic Tafur, “I thought he played exceptionally well. I think he’s a guy that continues to get better every day. I think he’s beginning to be able to adjust to the different things that defenses are giving him. He’s a smart player and he’s got good instincts, both in the run game and the pass game.”
Jackson is currently the second-string left guard behind versatile veteran Khalif Barnes, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Jackson beats him out before the start of the season. Barnes is a mediocre starter at best, whereas Jackson has the ability to start immediately, as he uses his hands well and has adjusted to the pro game nicely thus far. His ability to pave the way for Maurice Jones-Drew and Darren McFadden and keep Matt Schaub clean are positives, and he is picking up as much as possible from the likes of Barnes and the coaching staff.
The Raiders are a much better team heading into the 2014 season, and those improvements can be seen on the offensive line as well. Donald Penn, Austin Howard, and, if he wins the starting job, Jackson would give the Raiders three sizeable upgrades up front.