Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, September 22, 2023

Jackson grabs opportunity in returner role

Sometimes opportunities open up and guys like Kearis Jackson take advantage of them.

The Titans probably went into the 2023 season figuring that Kyle Philips would be their punt returner, and that perhaps Hassan Haskins would retain the kickoff return role.

But those plans quickly went off the rails, as Philips landed on IR with a knee injury that will cost him at least the first four games of the season. Then, an injury and legal problems put Haskins on the shelf indefinitely.

Last year, in the wave of injuries that derailed the Titans’ season, Tennessee used seven different players on punt returns and seven different players on kickoff returns.

Unexpectedly, though, the Titans may have found some stability this season in one player who is capably handling both roles early in 2023. The pitfalls that took out Philips and Haskins opened up a chance for the undrafted rookie Jackson to make the 53-man roster and nail down both of those roles for the Titans – saving a roster spot in the process.

Jackson’s primary work thus far has been on punt returns, where he has been solid and has gained some key positives with his 8-yard average. It was a 10-yard return out to the Titans’ 39 Sunday by Jackson that helped to start the game-winning drive in OT in good field position – something quarterback Ryan Tannehill made sure to mention in his postgame news conference after the win over the Chargers.

And while Jackson has seen only touchbacks in his first two games as the kickoff returner, he demonstrated enough ability in the preseason to earn double duty on returns for the regular season.

Special teams coach Craig Aukerman has been pleased thus far with how Jackson has responded as a rookie.

“I thought Kearis did an excellent job of catching the football. That’s our No. 1 thing is to get the ball back to the offense and get that first first down,” Aukerman said after the season opener.

Jackson is confident in his abilities to handle what goes into being a returner.

“I’m very confident in returning. I don’t let things faze me like outside noise,” he says.