Asa Jackson Excelling In Newly Found Niche


Cornerback Asa Jackson has certainly had a trying four-year career.

He's been suspended twice and cut by the Ravens once. He was cut by the Giants in a matter of days. He's been given chances to be a starting cornerback and the Ravens' returner, but neither panned out.

Now the ever-evolving Jackson has finally found a niche – blocking kicks.

Last week, Jackson became the first NFL player since 2012 to block kicks in back-to-back games, according to ESPN and the Elias Sports Bureau. The last player to accomplish the feat was Buffalo's Alex Carrington.

Jackson perfectly timed an extra point snap by the Chargers to notch a block in Week 8. In Week 7, he came up the middle to block a punt in Arizona, which the Ravens recovered at the 1-yard line and punched in for a touchdown to get them back in the game.

Here's video of both plays: (Mobile app users click on "View in browser" at the top of the page to watch.)

Jackson has done it with a combination of instincts and speed. They're the same attributes that made him an alluring returner, but he's using them in a different way.

"This experience this season has really taught me a lot in terms of being mentally tough and that this game really is a blessing," Jackson said. "I should play it like that every single play, and that's what I'm going to do."

Jackson feels so blessed because he's been on the other side of the employment line.

It was just more than two months ago when the Ravens waived him at the end of training camp. Jackson was given every opportunity to be Baltimore's returner, but he literally fumbled away the job with two preseason gaffes.

Jackson was quickly signed by the New York Giants, but they cut him before he ever even wore his new uniform. Jackson came back to Baltimore five days after the Ravens cut him, but this time to the practice squad.

Jackson said he had mixed feelings when the team that drafted him in the fifth round in 2012 released him. But he said he's learned over the past two or three years to "keep faith and keep moving forward."

After Jackson blocked the punt in Arizona, he held his finger to the sky as he celebrated in the end zone. He kept it up the entire time as he walked to the sideline.

"I just feel like I owe these people so much because they gave me an opportunity," Jackson said. "A 5-foot-10 kid from Sacramento, Calif., 180 pounds, they made my dreams come true four years ago. So, shoot, adjusting to anything they want me to do, that's not hard for me. I'm just so fortunate to be here. If [Justin] Tucker goes down, I'll kick the ball. I don't care."

That doesn't mean Jackson has lost his desire to be the Ravens' returner, however. Baltimore had shuffled between players with running back Raheem Mostert now serving as the kickoff returner and Jeremy Ross on punt returns. Jackson could get the nod at any time.

"He's anxious to be the returner again, but in the meantime, he's doing everything else at a very high level," Special Teams Coordinator Jerry Rosburg said. "He's making the most of every opportunity he has in other areas, and I'm really excited about Asa in that regard."

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