Jacobs, a three-year starter at Arkansas, was well on his way to being drafted after earning All-SEC honors in 2018, but an ACL injury (right knee) in 2019, followed by opting out of half of the 2020 season over COVID-19 concerns, dropped his stock and he would go undrafted.
Following the draft, the Lions offered him an opportunity to join the organization, signing him to a league minimum contract with just a $3,500 signing bonus—the second smallest offer they gave out this past draft cycle. Simply put, he was going to have to earn his spot.
Jacobs’ aggressive mentality and above-average work ethic showed up in training camp, and he constantly sought advice from coaches and players on how to improve his game. He would bond with Jeff Okudah—both lost their mothers, Jacobs when he was 11, Okudah at age 18—and the Lions 2020 first-round pick took Jacobs under his wing.
Lions having fun out there. This was the defense’s reaction after UDFA CB Jerry Jacobs INT. pic.twitter.com/L2EKMGDQin— Erik Schlitt (@erikschlitt) August 1, 2021
Jacobs worked his way up the depth chart and by roster cutdowns he had earned a spot on the Lions' 53-man roster. Jacobs saw minimal work over the first month of the season, mostly on special teams, but then opportunity struck. First, Okudah suffered a season-ending injury, then his replacement, Ifeatu Melifonwu, was placed on injured reserve. The Lions gave converted safety Bobby Price the first shot at replacing them in the starting role, but by Week 5, Jacobs beat him out and won the starting job. He would start the next nine games for the Lions, before heading to Denver in Week 14.
Jacobs played just five snaps in Denver before injuring his ACL, requiring assistance leaving the field, and exiting on the training cart. After the game, coach Dan Campbell said, “It didn’t look too good”, further pushing the narrative that Jacobs suffered a difficult injury.
On Monday, Jacobs was evaluated further and tweeted out the bad news.
“It pains me to announce I have suffered an ACL injury. This is a minor setback for a major comeback. I can’t wait to get back on the field and play for the best fans in the NFL. Tough times don’t last. Tough people do.”
At his Monday afternoon press conference, Campbell confirmed the ACL and alluded to the fact that the team would be placing Jacobs on injured reserve and that his season would be over.
“Yeah, you feel awful, because he has improved so much, particularly from spring to where he has been playing lately,” Campbell said. “Before he got hurt, he had already been doing some good things. So, you hate it for him. You don’t want any of your guys to get hurt, particularly one of these long-term injuries. I hate that it happened now, in December. That’s probably a nine-month injury, somewhere in there, but the good news is it’s repairable. He’ll work at it, he’ll come back, and he’ll be better than he was.”
Coach Campbell on cornerback Jerry Jacobs. pic.twitter.com/WyOCkFnEGo— Detroit Lions (@Lions) December 13, 2021
Based on standard ACL recovery times across the NFL (six to nine months) it’s possible he could be available for training camp next offseason, but he may also not be ready before the start of the 2022 season.
Jacobs will end his season with nine starts, 34 tackles, seven pass deflections, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, a quarterback hit, and a 64.7 grade from Pro Football Focus.