Breakfast: Lightning rods to key signings


Kareem Jackson and Derek Newton aren't just connected because they signed free agent deals with the Texans on Monday. They both share a link to one of the worst years in franchise history: 2010.

The corner was the team's first round pick of that Draft. The lineman was a 7th-rounder the year after, and his spot in that year's Draft was determined because of the 6-10 misery of the previous autumn.

Jackson and the rest of the 2010 defensive unit struggled, and struggled mightily. Linebacker Brian

Cushing missed four games and then switched positions midway through the season when fellow 'backer DeMeco Ryans was lost for the year with an Achilles tear. Pass-rusher Connor Barwin couldn't make it past Week 1, wrecking an ankle gruesomely in the opener against Indianapolis. Second-year corner Glover Quin had his trials, and would be moved to safety the next year. Each and every player on that unit had a trouble or two of his own.

None faced the wrath of the media and fanbase like Jackson did.

He made rookie mistakes and did so as the team's first-round pick, at a position that highlighted failures. After all, it's easier to see a cornerback's mistake than it is a nose tackle's. Or a left guard's. Or a running back's.

But Jackson, after every game, faced the music with the media and never placed blame elsewhere.

He and the rest of the defense would turn a corner the next season, and Jackson would go on to play well enough in 2012, 2013 and last year to merit the new contract he signed yesterday.

Newton, meanwhile, flew under the radar as a rookie in 2011. He showed up on the field mainly as the third tackle in jumbo sets, gaining a dollop of experience that first year.

But the next offseason, the team cut right tackle Eric Winston. Backup Rashad Butler got injured after that, and Newton was thrust into a starting role. The Texans won 12 games and returned to the playoffs, but Newton caught some heat because Arian Foster's yards-per-carry went south.

In 2013, he played through a knee injury and struggled some more. Little went right for the team in that 2-14 nightmare, and many pointed to the right tackle position as a spot that needed a new face in 2014.

But Bill O'Brien declared Newton the starter in mid-June, and Newton quietly did the job asked of him. He turned in a solid and improved performance and graded out as one of the best tackles in the NFL, in terms of run blocking. It also helped that his knee, which required surgery after the 2013 season, was in much better shape last fall.

Jackson and Newton went through what many of us go through early in our working lives: tough times. Right off the bat, we're not always great accountants, mechanics, waiters, doctors, lawyers or broadcasters. But Jackson and Newton stuck with it. They had employers who stuck with them. Now, both sides are now reaping the rewards.

It all started with the year 2010.

Perhaps a good start to 2015 is just the beginning for them and the rest of the team.


A look at Kareem Jackson's NFL career in Houston.

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