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Taking after Tim Tebow, Brandon Jacobs eyes NFL comeback

Tim Tebow's comeback has former New York Giants running back Brandon Jacobs mulling a return to the NFL. As a defensive end. At age 38. Wow. Can he do it?

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Brandon Jacobs was a bruising ball-carrier for the New York Giants, and played for two Super Bowl-winning teams in his prime. Now, at age 38, he wants to return to the NFL as a defensive end.

Inspired in part by Tim Tebow‘s comeback with the Jacksonville Jaguars as he tries to convert from quarterback to tight end, Jacobs announced his intentions to return to the NFL on Twitter:

No question Jacobs was an extremely tough player in his heyday, as he routinely trucked defenders in his path. However, this is a legitimate mountain to climb for someone who last played in the NFL in 2013.

Jacobs is 38 years old and took years of battering at perhaps the most grueling position on the field, or at least the one considered in the modern NFL to be the one with the shortest shelf life and most easily replaceable. That doesn’t bode well for any sort of longevity, or even making it through a 17-game season.

But let’s humor this whole situation for a minute and see how Jacobs could actually be an appealing projection as an NFL defensive end. After all, we’re talking about a man who was, well, a bigger man amongst seriously grown men who had a career-high 15 rushing touchdowns during the 2008 season.

How Brandon Jacobs’ skill set translates to defensive end

How Brandon Jacobs' skill set translates to defensive end
Jan 15, 2012; Green Bay, WI, USA; New York Giants running back Brandon Jacobs (27) is tackled by Green Bay Packers free safety Morgan Burnett (42) during the second half in the 2011 NFC divisional playoff game at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

As he explained to ESPN’s Josina Anderson, the nine-year NFL veteran thought maybe a position conversion should’ve come sooner, and that teams have nothing to lose by working Jacobs out:

There’s some merit to that line of thinking. To begin with, Jacobs played at about 260 pounds and showed plenty of lateral quickness in addition to being physical as a runner. Most running backs couldn’t dream of having the baseline measurements to play defensive line. That’s what made Jacobs so unique at tailback.

If Jacobs learns the finer points of playing defensive end, he could be a legitimate speed-to-power force off the edge. Maybe that’d appeal to some teams in need of depth at the position.

Another advantage Jacobs would have is an innate understanding of what opposing running backs would try to do. Provided he’d have the functional strength and proper technique to set the edge versus the run, Jacobs could probably do a decent job reading and reacting to rushing plays.

One big concern is whether Jacobs’ athleticism has diminished too much to the point where he can no longer play at the NFL level. Physical tools can only take players so far, and there’s no telling what kind of shape Jacobs is in.

The potential impact he could make in defending the run is quite speculative, too — and Jacobs would have so much to learn in terms of pass-rushing technique to make an impact in that phase of the game. Plus, it’d take a patient coaching staff to watch Jacobs go through growing pains just to see if he might be a minor contributor.

Having said all that, look: Tebow is getting a shot in Jacksonville, and hasn’t played in a regular-season NFL contest since 2012. Tebow is further out than Jacobs is from live game action. At least for a while, rosters won’t be trimmed to the final 53 players, so Jacobs could at least get a tryout from some team.

Signing a contract is a long shot at this point for Jacobs, much less making a roster. That doesn’t mean he shouldn’t at least give it a try, because if he succeeds, suddenly it’d become a fascinating NFL narrative no one could’ve ever imagined.

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