Kareem Jackson called his rookie season in the NFL last year a “real learning experience.”
The former Westside standout hopes to continue to use those lessons learned Saturday when the Houston Texans play their first-ever playoff game. The Texans, who played their first game in 2002, won the AFC South this season and will host Cincinnati in the wild-card round of the AFC playoffs.
Jackson was drafted 20th in the first round of the 2010 NFL draft after a strong career at Alabama.
“Definitely last year for me was a real learning experience,” Jackson said. “The main thing was I had to prove I was accountable to my teammates. The experience I got from last season was the biggest thing for me. There was a big learning curve of the does and don’ts of the NFL and what to look for.
“I had to learn to what to do and how to do it, how to study film and really focus on the things you need to do to make you a better player.”
Jackson started all 16 games last season, and he had two interceptions and 71 total tackles. This season, he has played in 15 games, starting 13, and he has one interception and 42 total tackles.
“I’m definitely excited to be here, not just for me but for all of us,” Jackson said. “This is going to be a great experience for all of us, and we’re really looking forward to it.”
Jackson was part of a Texans defense that improved dramatically from last season.
Houston was 30th in total defense in the NFL last year, 32nd in passing defense and 13th in rushing defense while ranking 29th in points allowed (an average of 26.7 points per game). Under first-year defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, the Texans rank in the top four in all four of those categories this season.
Houston is second in total defense, third in passing defense, fourth in rushing defense and fourth in points allowed (17.4).
“The big difference was just everyone buying into the system,” Jackson said. “Wade brought in a new system, and everyone is doing their part. We set one goal before the season to get where we are, but now we want to go further in the playoffs.
“Everyone worked hard this season and before the season, the entire offseason, really to make this happen.”
The Texans certainly have had to work hard to get to this point.
They lost starting quarterback Matt Schaub and his backup, Matt Leinart, and are playing rookie quarterback T.J. Yates, who will play Saturday despite suffering a shoulder injury last week. Star wide receiver Andre Johnson only has played seven games because of injuries, and star running back Arian Foster has been banged-up, as well.
Still, the Texans finished 10-6 and earned the AFC’s fourth seed. Cincinnati was 9-7 during the regular season.
“That just shows the character of this team,” Jackson said. “We had so many injuries, but we had other people step up. But now we’re getting people healthy; Andre’s back, and T.J. is doing a great job at quarterback. It really just shows how much this character we have as a team.”