Kocurek hopes Jackson utilizes his versatility in third 49ers season

Kocurek hopes Jackson utilizes his versatility in third 49ers season originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

SANTA CLARA — Drake Jackson has yet to join the 49ers on the field after a knee procedure in January, but defensive line coach Kris Kocurek still believes in the former second-round draft pick.

On Tuesday, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan confirmed that the defensive end was not healthy enough to take part in on-field activities but will return as soon as the medical staff gives the go ahead. It has been a long road for Jackson, who was on the field for just eight games during the 2023 NFL season, his second year with the team.

“Right now, I think Kyle hit it,” Kocurek said. “Drake is still in the rehab process right now. It’s just matter of getting his knee back. He’s working extremely hard on that. That’s the main thing, getting that back and ready to go.”

The USC product made a splash, recording three sacks in the 2023 season opener, but then was sparsely on the field during the remainder of his eight total game appearances. Kocurek shared that Jackson has been diligent in the meeting rooms, doing whatever he can off the field until his return.

“He’s been here 24/7, since shortly after the Super Bowl,” Kocurek said. “He was back here going through his rehab process. He is always an inquisitive person in the meeting room, always wanting to know the reasons why. He sits right next to me, actually, so he has stayed on top of it, and it’s just a matter of getting his rehab and getting back as fast as he can.”

Kocurek laid out a challenge for Jackson after the edge rusher hit the proverbial rookie wall in 2022, and was designated inactive for two games at the end of the season and again in all three playoff contests. The position coach was hopeful Jackson would rebound in his second season after an entire offseason spent at the team facility.

Jackson put on muscle weight, often arriving at the facility before his position coach prior to the 2023 campaign. Kocurek hopes all the work will pay off and vowed to continue helping the 23-year old take advantage of his athleticism while on the field.

“His strength as a pass rusher,” Kocurek said. “Just his slipperiness, his ability to bend, his ability to shorten edges, ability to use his hands to create an edge. Very flexible rusher. Versatility — you can line him up at multiple spots to rush the passer.”

Jackson will be competing with several new pass rushers the 49ers signed during free agency, including Leonard Floyd, whom the team signed to a two-year, $20 million contract.

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