Allen Park — For better or worse, this Detroit Lions season is about guys like Jerry Jacobs.
Thin on talent and heavy on youth, the first year of a multi-season rebuild is largely about the development of the roster, while hopefully unearthing some diamonds in the rough along the way.
That’s exactly what Jacobs represents. He didn’t come to Detroit with the pedigree or expectations of first-round picks Jeff Okudah or Penei Sewell, or even a mid-round selection with a clear path to playing time such as Amon-Ra St. Brown or Derrick Barnes.
No, as an undrafted rookie who took a winding, sometimes unnecessarily complicated road to this point, Jacobs was a scratch-off lottery ticket, with little risk and equally little expectation of netting the grand prize.
But here we are, entering the seventh week of the season and Jacobs is preparing to make his third start while looking like he has a legitimate future in this league.
“He’s grown about as much as anybody has from the time that he walked in the door,” Lions coach Dan Campbell said Friday. “He probably has because he was light-years away, light-years. To see where he’s at now and how he just improves every week is pretty impressive.”
Jacobs has opened some eyes with his opportunity, created by injuries ahead of him on depth chart to Okudah and third-round draft pick Ifeatu Melifonwu. In his first start, Jacobs managed to hold former Pro Bowler Adam Thielen in check and last week, although explosive rookie Ja’Marr Chase got behind him for a couple deep receptions, the coaching staff came away impressed with Jacobs’ tenacity.
Of course, Jacobs will be the first to tell you he’s still learning on the job. On those two deep balls he surrendered to Chase, the young corner said he got caught looking at the wrong thing. That’s a technique issue that he believes will be ironed out with more time in the film room and more experience.
Still, Campbell went out of his way to praise the way Jacobs has attacked this week of practice coming out of the game against the Bengals, specifically highlighting how he defended a play at the end of Thursday’s session.
“He was like a pit bull,” Campbell said. “It was tight coverage. It was really, for the most part, we kind of recreated Minnesota at the end (of that game). To watch him out there competing, play tight and defend — I’m trying to run daggers and he’s sticky and it was good. It was impressive.”
Going forward, as Jacobs continues to develop, he understands he can’t lose the mindset, the hunger that got him here. And he plans to continue leaning on his trademark physicality, an asset he feels he’s able to use to his advantage in the increasingly pass-happy NFL.
To go along with the playing time and budding confidence, Jacobs has also been in the spotlight more than ever before during all his years playing football. For the second consecutive week, he was one of a dozen players the team made available for interviews, and he even conducted a sit-down segment with Fox 2 this week.
He said the attention has been surprising to some of his family out of town, but he’s not letting it go to his head. Instead, he sees it as humbling that anyone is interested in his story or what he has to say.
“Every time I park my car here and I see Detroit, I see my helmet, my teammates, see my locker, it’s just unbelievable,” Jacobs said. “I get to tears sometimes because I’m here, and I ain’t gonna stop. I’ve just got to keep going.”