Asa Jackson will, in all likelihood, be a Raven once the regular season starts.
But whether the second-year cornerback remains in Baltimore midway through the year is in question.
On Aug. 2, Jackson received an eight-game suspension for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs), stemming from taking medication for Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). He won't take up a roster spot during his time away, but the Ravens will have to decide whether to keep him once he returns.
This preseason is the only time Jackson can convince the organization, and he did a good job of it in his first game Thursday in Tampa Bay by notching an interception and forced fumble on a big hit.
"Obviously I'm not going to be here for a while after the regular season starts," Jackson said. "So I want to leave a good taste in the mouths of the coaches and the guys upstairs that this is someone that we do want to have around on the team when it's time for me to come back."
Playing with the second- and third-team defenses, Jackson made back-to-back big plays in the third quarter.
First he went low to take out bruising Bucs running back Peyton Hillis. Jackson is 5-foot-10, 182 pounds and Hillis is 6-foot-2, 250 pounds. Jackson up-ended Hillis, who landed hard on the turf and fumbled. The Buccaneers recovered, but it showed Jackson isn't afraid to throw his smaller frame around.
On the next play, Jackson was shadowing Bucs receiver Chris Owusu, who he thought was going to run a dig route. Owusu broke outside and backup quarterback Mike Glennon's pass came right to Jackson.
"I looked back and the ball was thrown way inside, so I just stepped in front and took it," Jackson said. "It was exciting, man. There were a couple balls before that that the quarterback had thrown inside. So I was looking to make a play and get an interception, and it worked out for me."
Jackson, a fifth-round round pick in 2012, only saw action in three regular-season games last year before serving a four-game suspension for violating the PEDs policy. He made one tackle.
This year, Jackson's in a position to emerge on special teams, perhaps as a punt returner, and as a backup cornerback. He has potential, showcasing excellent quickness and moxie on the field. But he must strive for consistency, and to stay out of trouble.
Head Coach John Harbaugh came down hard on Jackson when talking to the media, saying he's "getting what he deserves." But Harbaugh is letting Jackson prove himself. The two were smiling and chatting before Thursday's preseason opener.
"I felt good all week," Jackson said. "I think I started decently tonight and I've just got to keep building from here. There are things I can do and we can all do to keep getting better, and that's what I plan on doing for the rest of the preseason."