By MIKE MELTSER, SportsRadio 610By Mike Meltser

He was everybody’s whipping boy two years ago, but Kareem Jackson now stands on the precipice of a huge stretch in his career. We know he’s improved as a cornerback, but to what degree? How good of a player can he become? What level of play is considered “satisfactory” for the Texans’ 2010 first round draft pick?

On Sunday, the Texans face their first big test of the 2012 season, taking on Peyton Manning and the Broncos on the road. Related: Broncos roster

Nobody needs to educate Houston fans on exactly how dangerous Manning can be on the field. Even with some injury and consistency questions, he’s many grades above the Ryan Tannehill– or Blaine Gabbert-level quarterbacks.

Big difference

The best thing that ever happened to Jackson was the Texans going from David Gibbs to Vance Joseph as defensive backs coach during the 2011 offseason. Based on the ex-post facto reviews on Gibbs’ tenure here, it’s about the equivalent to going from Rich Kotite to Bill Parcells as your head coach. Jackson improved considerably from 2010 to 2011, becoming a steady player on the NFL’s second-ranked defense.

Still, questions remain about Jackson’s overall game. He is seen as the weak link among a defense that features above average players or stars at nearly every position. Jackson is criticized for his speed, lack of instincts, and inability to turn his head around to make plays.

Realistically, we’ve seen enough to conclude that Jackson is never going to transform into Mike Haynes. But I believe I have a more grounded question: Can Jackson be a poor man’s Antoine Winfield? Cover decently down the field, but solidify any defense with very strong play against the run and excellent tackling.

Big test

On Sunday, Jackson will face a dangerous Broncos wide receiver tandem with Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas. Can he hold up against a potentially explosive Denver passing game? The Texans can afford for him to allow some plays down the field (it is the 2012 NFL, after all), but he can’t give up huge plays or allow himself to be dominated by any one receiver. Related: NFL scoreboard

Week 3 will give us a great perspective into the kind of player Jackson is in his third season.

At this point, are you a Jackson fan or hater?

Follow Mike Melster on Twitter and visit the MaD Radio show page.


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