INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts' coaching staff knows what it's going to get out of D'Qwell Jackson each and every time he steps onto the field: production.
Entering his 11th NFL season in 2016, the 32-year-old inside linebacker has consistently produced throughout his career, and has showed no signs of slowing. Last year, his 150 total tackles ranked second in the entire NFL, just four stops away from league leader NaVorro Bowman's mark of 154.
So entering this year's offseason workout program, one probably wouldn't blame Jackson if, perhaps, he took things a little easier; if he felt the need to slowly work his way back into the mix of things.
Nope — that's not Jackson's style. This season especially, with a new defensive coordinator in town, it's important for the Maryland product to keep his foot firmly upon the gas pedal.
"Right now it's still fun," Jackson told Colts.com. "I wouldn't be playing if it wasn't fun. It's like a chess game to me, and the more you know the better you play."
And the more Jackson dives head first into first-year defensive coordinator Ted Monachino's system, the more excited he gets about the upcoming season.
Jackson said he's already noticed the installation of multiple fronts up front for the defense, throwing wrinkles into what he had already mastered the his previous two seasons in Indy. To Jackson, learning a new system — and working out the kinks during OTAs — is best part of this offseason's workload.
"(For) everybody, that human element comes into play when you've been in the system for so long that you get complacent," Jackson said. "Now, every guy basically has a clean slate — coaches, they somewhat know you, but they don't know you on the field, so it's important to ask all the questions that you need answered now, so when we get to the field it's seamless, you're moving forward and you'll be able to correct (things)."
A behind the scenes look at Jackson's 2016 photo shoot in the #ColtsPhotoGarage
Jackson, of course, is expected to be firmly planted in one of the team's two inside linebacker spots come Week 1. As it stands now, two players — Nate Irving and Sio Moore — have been getting the opportunity to battle it out the remainder of the offseason and into training camp to earn the starting spot next to their veteran teammate. Others — like Josh McNary, Amarlo Herrera, Junior Sylvestre and Edwin Jackson — will also get plenty of chances to raise some eyebrows, as well.
D'Qwell Jackson wouldn't want it any other way. He reiterated the fact that this part of the year is "a fun time" to be in the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center.
"There's going to be some things that you're actually going to have to go through in order to play exactly how they want you to play technique-wise," he said. "I think this year's going to be that solid year for us."
For D. Jackson, health will be a key factor for the Colts' defense this season — particularly up front. With guys like Arthur Jones, Henry Anderson, T.Y. McGill, David Parry, Kendall Langford, Zach Kerr, Hassan Ridgeway and more expected to be part of the rotation, many in the building believe it's only a matter of time before this unit is doing some significant damage.
"If we keep guys healthy, we can have a stout D-line," D. Jackson said. "The more everyone knows collectively, the better we play as a unit. So this is always a fun time. … You take advantage of this time. You put in the work, you get with guys afterwards. This is a fun time."