BEREA: Brandon Jackson isn’t seeking revenge, but he wouldn’t mind flaunting what his former team will miss because of his departure.
“Anytime you play against your old team, you want to go out and show greatness,” he said.
Jackson, of course, recently signed with the Browns as an unrestricted free agent. He was the starting running back for the defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers during most of the 2010 regular season.
The Browns will host the Packers at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in the preseason opener for both teams. Jackson can’t wait for the reunion.
“I’ve been playing those guys in practice and little scrimmage games for four years now,” Jackson said Thursday at Browns training camp. “I know them pretty much inside and out, and I’m just trying to make the best of this opportunity to go out and play an old team.
“I’m pretty sure they’re gonna blitz a lot and [I’m] no stranger to that. I’m just gonna go out and have fun. It’s gonna be a great opportunity for me to show the head coach and everyone that I’m a great fit for this team.”
Browns coach Pat Shurmur already knows Jackson is an ideal weapon for his West Coast offense. The 5-foot-10, 216-pound Jackson spent the past four seasons in the Packers’ West Coast system after they selected him out of the University of Nebraska in the second round (63rd overall) of the 2007 draft.
“He had a major contribution for [the Packers] in a system which I feel he is a scheme fit … because a lot of their terminology is similar to [ours],” Shurmur said. “He was able to get in here and get up to speed. I love the way he practices. He finishes all his runs. Every time he touches the football, it’s an opportunity to score. You’ve all seen him. We all wish we looked that good. He’s a stocky and well-built guy. He’s a good pass protector, and I’m glad he’s here.”
In his first three NFL seasons, Jackson was seldom used. But after standout running back Ryan Grant suffered a season-ending ankle injury in Week 1 of last year, Jackson became a major contributor. He started 13 games, ran 190 times for 703 yards (3.7 average) and three touchdowns and caught 43 passes for 342 yards and a touchdown.
Jackson’s role, however, diminished in the playoffs. Rookie James Starks emerged as the Packers’ starter and go-to ball carrier in the postseason. The team also picked running back Alex Green in the third round (96th overall) of this year’s draft.
Jackson, 25, knew it was time to move on. He joined the Browns by signing a two-year deal reportedly worth $4.5 million.
“I’m all about opportunities, and my opportunity is here,” Jackson said. “And I’m trying to take advantage of that.”
The Browns are expected to give Jackson plenty of chances. Peyton Hillis is the team’s undisputed starter, but Montario Hardesty has yet to prove he can rebound from his second reconstructive knee surgery and become a reliable backup. Hardesty has not participated in team drills since the Browns began practicing in full pads Aug. 1.
As good as Hillis was last season, he suffered cracked ribs and wore down toward the finish. Adding insult to injury, the Browns sorely lacked a solid No. 2 running back.
Jackson, though, is capable of becoming the solution to the problem.
“Brandon’s a great guy,” Browns quarterback Colt McCoy said. “He’s great for our locker room. He [has] stepped up and made some plays, and he’ll continue to do that. He’s played in the system, too, so he kind of has a pretty good idea of how it’s supposed to work and he can catch out of the backfield. So he’s gonna be good help for Peyton.”
Hillis has respect for Jackson’s abilities.
“Brandon Jackson’s a very intelligent player,” Hillis said. “He’s obviously coming from a winning tradition, a winning team, just won the Super Bowl last year. He’s very smart, and he’s very versatile. So he’s definitely a guy you can put out there in any situation and he can get the job done.”
In Jackson’s eyes, the key words are “any situation.” He wants to take the next step in his career by expanding his repertoire.
“Everyone looks at me as third-down back or a back that catches out of the backfield,” Jackson said. “But I’m looking to prove to myself that I’m more than just that. [I want to prove] that I can run the ball, that I can get downhill and I can run people over and do what I’m supposed to do to help this team win more ballgames.”
He can begin building his new reputation Saturday. If Jackson has it his way, the Packers will be the first to spread the word.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Browns blog at http://browns.ohio.com. Follow the Browns on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ABJ_Browns and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/browns.abj.