After disappointing rookie season, spotlight will be on Chiefs DE Tyson Jackson

Tyson Jackson's first season as the main building block in Kansas City's new defense can be described in three short words: one paltry sack.

There was precious little production from the LSU star the Chiefs drafted third overall in 2009 and projected as the prototype defensive end in their new 3-4 scheme.

Was he overrated? Lazy? Did the new regime of Scott Pioli and Todd Haley repeat the mistakes their predecessors kept making and blow a high pick on an underachieving defensive lineman?

Or will Jackson make a giant leap forward from year No. 1 to year No. 2? Judging from how hard he's working at training camp, that seems to be a possibility.

"Tyson is in the early stages of an NFL career playing a very difficult position against grown men," said Haley, the Chiefs' second-year head coach. "I'm encouraged with where Tyson is right now. He's finding out what playing in the five- and four-technique for a 3-4 defensive lineman is all about. He's working his butt off and I think he wants to be part of a good team, part of making us a good team."

He's not playing a position expected to get a lot of sacks. But one? And against the run, the defense was 31st.

One problem Jackson grappled with was seeing NFL-type bodies hurling themselves at him every play.

"Linemen are not seeing consistently the grown NFL men on a weekly basis that they are going to see when they get here, and that's an adjustment," Haley said. "The more you talk to those guys they come through that first year, that's what you hear. These are grown men every day, every week."

At 6-foot-4, 300 pounds, Jackson has the size to go with the quickness. He's also getting special attention from new defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel and new defensive line coach Anthony Pleasant.

"It's the first time I ever had a coordinator who works with the defensive line a lot," Jackson said. "He's a real good coach. He shows us different techniques, and every now and then he tries to show us tips to get better."

Jackson has no trouble admitting the NFL was a bigger adjustment than he expected after dominating in the SEC.

"Year one, you just get smashed by a whole lot of stuff, going from college to the combine to minicamp, stuff like that. You never have that time off to relax," he said. "But year two or three are more slower. Guys get their feet under them and start understanding football at the NFL level. You get a better grasp of everything."

If the New Orleans native never comes close to meeting expectations, it will probably mean Pioli's first draft as general manager was almost entirely a bust. There is still time for some others to develop, and Pioli came from New England with the reputation as a personnel whiz.

But so far, the only member of the 2009 class who has performed well is kicker Ryan Succop, the last man taken in the entire draft.

As a high draft pick, does Jackson have to prove he can't play, where a fifth-round pick has to prove that he can? Haley's jaw tightens at the mere suggestion.

"Once they're in here, and I cannot stress this enough — I don't care how they got here," he said. "I really don't. I think my time in the league, that's been proven in the places I've been and the players I've been around. Once they're here and once I'm coaching them, I don't care if there is one pulling up in a van right now that was mowing a yard."

Jackson insists he feels no special pressure to live up to being the overall No. 3 pick.

"It all depends on how you look at it," he said. "I've just got to keep going out there and put my talent to work, continue to work hard. From there, just let everything else play out."

Haley, while encouraged, is making no predictions of Pro Bowls in Jackson's immediate future.

"I think that he learned a lot last year," Haley said. "He survived. It wasn't always perfect, but he came back for more and he's hungry. We'll know more about that down the road as we start to get into games and real games. I've got a strong feeling that he'll probably be around here when we're playing games. And he's got to be better than what he was."