Former Los Angeles Raiders running back Bo Jackson isn’t a fan of NFL defenses today. Jackson believes defenders have gotten so bad at tackling that he could average “350-400 yards a game” if he played today.
Jackson, 57, made those comments on Deion Sanders’ “21st & Prime” podcast Monday. Jackson decried tackling methods today, saying defenders rely too much on their shoulder pads instead of wrapping up.
“Nobody wrap up and tackle no more. With me being a ballcarrier, my coach taught us, No. 1, he said, ‘I know you can run, but I’m going to teach you how to carry that football.’ He said, ‘That football is like your newborn baby. Don’t ever put it on the ground. And keep it away from the enemy.’
“It’s like this — and I watch technique — I don’t see nobody hitting or wrapping up. Everyone is running into each other and using their shoulder pads to knock the ballcarrier down. And I’m like, if I played during this era, I would be averaging 350-400 yards a game.”
Over his four-year career in the NFL, Jackson averaged 73.2 yards per game.
Could Bo Jackson dominate the NFL today?
Jackson’s boast about “averaging 350-400 yards a game” was almost certainly an exaggeration on his part. The bigger question is whether Jackson could still dominate if he played today? That’s not something we can really prove, unfortunately.
What we do know is this: Jackson was a phenomenal athlete when he played. Very few people have had the talent to play in the NFL and MLB at the same time. If Jackson played today and was still in his prime, we can assume he would be among the best athletes in the NFL.
Problem is, the game has more of those types of players today. Dual threats like Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson and Cam Newton are the norm at quarterback. Aaron Donald is 6-foot-1, 280 pounds and ran a 4.68 in the 40-yard dash. None of this is to say Jackson would be bad if he played in 2020, just that the NFL has changed the way it evaluates players and positions now. Jackson might be able to shake off shoulder-pad tackles, but he’d likely have to deal with faster linebackers now.
We’ll never actually know how Jackson would fare in today’s game, but we’d love to see it. While Jackson in his prime would almost certainly amaze us in 2020, even the 57-year-old version of Jackson would probably be capable of surprising us. That’s how special Jackson was as a player.
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