The Seattle Seahawks overall and Michael Jackson, specifically, had a weird year. The team started 5-2 and led the NFC West after Week 8. Jackson went from a 17-game starter in 2022 to sitting on the bench to begin the season. Later in the season, the team faded but Jackson continued to get better and he eventually started the final four games of the year.
Mike Jackson played so well that Pro Football Focus (subscription required) named him as the Seahawks' most improved player. This is mostly because of the grade that PFF gave Jackson in 2022, of course, but there is little doubt that while most of the rest of the team struggled against the run and with tackling, Jackson did well enough in those areas.
In fact, Jackson did just as well in those two areas as he did in 2022. Tre Brown beat Jackson out for one cornerback spot in training camp and preseason, likely because Brown shows more ability to create turnovers than does Jackson, but now-former defensive coordinator Clint Hurtt should have recognized much earlier in the year that Jackson should have actually replaced 2022 Pro Bowler Riq Woolen.
Seattle Seahawks should have played Michael Jackson over Riq Woolen in 2023
Woolen was an atrocious tackler early in the season and appeared afraid to hit people. Woolen also seemed lost in terms of his assignment in run support, often playing far too wide when he needed to crash down on the offensive line. Jackson did not have the same confusion. Woolen received a run defense grade of an awful 37.3 (third-worst in the NFL) this season, but Jackson had a run defense grade of 71.5 which was in the top 30 in the league.
Jackson even finished with a slightly better coverage grade than Woolen - 76.9 to 75.0. Woolen also allowed 3 touchdown passes while Jackson gave up none. Plus, besides a bad Week 17 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Jackson missed just 2 tackles all year (5 total). Woolen missed 13.
This article isn't meant to be a direct comparison of Jackson versus Woolen, however. The point is that the Seahawks would have been better simply playing Jackson early in the season. Hopefully, whoever the next defensive coordinator is for the Seahawks sees the value of Jackson and gives him more reps in 2024. That should help the defense be better overall and a better defense might be just good enough to get the Seahawks back into the playoffs.