Chad Jackson flashed some early signs of potential last year, but the young receiver struggled to make an impact overall during his rookie season. Jackson finished the year with just 13 receptions for 152 yards and three touchdowns. His season ended in the AFC Championship Game against the Colts when he tore his ACL covering kicks on special teams.
Jackson also battled hamstring and groin injuries that caused him to miss four games. Needless to say, the former Gator didn't make quite the impact the Patriots were hoping he would when they traded up in the draft to get him.
It was a long offseason for Jackson, who spent most of his time rehabilitating from knee surgery. He started the year on the physically unable to perform list and while the time off has been tough in a lot ways, it has also been beneficial in others. Jackson had a reputation as being a little immature last season and his time off has helped him grow mentally.
"Yes, it definitely has," Jackson said when asked if not playing has helped him mature. "I've been doing a lot of thinking and meditating and things. Thinking about going into this year and what I can do and what I've learned from last year. I just have to take that out on the field with me so it can make me a better player."
With the Patriots' depth at receiver, it was a little bit surprising to see the team activate Jackson off the PUP list. New England did have the option of basically red-shirting Jackson for a year by placing him on injured reserve, something he strongly opposed.
"I had some doubts, that they would probably put me on IR or not activate me," Jackson said. "I was a little worried, a little scared, but you know, everything worked out fine."
Now that Jackson has been activated the question remains, where does he fit in on this team? New England is set at receiver with Randy Moss, Donte' Stallworth, Wes Welker and Jabar Gaffney. That list doesn't even include Troy Brown, who has recently been activated off the PUP list himself.
Jackson has been patient but he's getting the itch to get back out on the field with his teammates.
"I'm just eager right now to go out and make some plays," he said. "I've been sitting at home watching the games and seeing what those guys are doing. Hopefully I'll get a chance to get out there and do the same thing, which I know I can. Hopefully, I'll give the coaches confidence so they know I can also."
Luckily for Jackson, a new arrival in New England has helped him adjust to the NFL game both on and off the field. It may be hard to believe based on his past but that guy is Randy Moss. Moss has not only been a superstar on the field for the Patriots, he's also been a big addition in the locker room for younger players like Jackson.
"He's kind of electrified the locker room as a matter of fact. He's always in here joking around with the guys, giving guys a hard time," Jackson said about Moss. "He's brought a lot of livelihood and energy to the locker room.
"Randy, he's been a great guy to me. He's been a great role model to me and he sat me down to talk to me. He told me about the game and what he's learned from it and what he's taken from it. He's been a real positive influence on not just me but everyone on this team."