Regular season opportunities for late-round draft picks in the NFL are few and far between. Throw in a position change on top of that, and it's practically unheard of.
Just don't tell that to Rob Jackson, a defensive end selected by the Redskins in the seventh round (242nd overall) of the 2008 NFL Draft.
After the Redskins switched to a 3-4 scheme last season, Jackson made the move to outside linebacker and saw playing time in the final two games.
Jackson made an impact, especially in the Week 16 game at Jacksonville. Playing for an injured Brian Orakpo, Jackson was credited with five tackles, one sack, three quarterback hurries and a forced fumble.
The sack was the first of his NFL career and his efforts helped the Redskins beat the Jaguars 20-17 in overtime.
"I think Rob has a great upside, because he gets off the ball fast," fellow linebacker London Fletcher said in an interview last season. "He's trying to get there with a purpose. He can rush the passer, he has a lot of moves and he's active when he's trying to get there."
"Everyone knows this game is about opportunities, and if you don't take advantage of your opportunities, you may not get another one," added Jackson, in comments also made last season. "I'm up for the challenge."
Jackson spent the first 12 weeks of last season on the Redskins' practice squad.
In 2011, Jackson is expected to provide depth at linebacker. The starters are likely Brian Orakpo and either Lorenzo Alexander or 2011 first-round draft pick Ryan Kerrigan. Potential backups include Chris Wilson and 2011 seventh-rounder Markus White.
Would Jackson try his hand at inside linebacker? There could be roster spots available at that position depending on the Redskins' approach to free agency.
The improved versatility would certainly help Jackson secure a 2011 roster spot. It's unknown if the team will try him there, though.
Whatever his role, Jackson knows he needs a strong preseason to improve his chances of earning a roster spot.