NFL history says the Chargers are doomed after J.C. Jackson injury

Seattle Seahawks v Los Angeles Chargers
Seattle Seahawks v Los Angeles Chargers / Katelyn Mulcahy/GettyImages

J.C. Jackson suffered a scary non-contact injury in the LA Chargers' Week 7 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, bringing into question whether or not artificial turfs (and SoFi Stadium, in particular) are to blame.

Early reports about the injury indicated that Jackson dislocated his kneecap, although additional damage was not reported until Monday. Head coach Brandon Staley said that Jackson ruptured his patellar tendon and would miss the rest of the season.

This ends what was a troubling first season with the Chargers for Jackson after signing a five-year, $82.5 million contract this spring. Making matters worse is that this particular injury is not one that players have historically come back from and be the same player.

If Jackson was a quarterback it would be one thing. But to play a position like cornerback, where he is constantly at a full spring and is changing speed and direction, this injury is particularly worrisome. Recent NFL history is not kind to torn patellar tendons.

Victor Cruz is a cautious tale for the Chargers with J.C. Jackson's injury.

Victor Cruz is one of the most notable players to suffer a torn patellar tendon and see his career get derailed as a result. At his best, Cruz was one of the best receivers in the league who had two extremely promising seasons in 2011 and 2012.

Cruz had a pretty good 2013 campaign and lasted only six games into the 2014 campaign before suffering the injury against the Philadelphia Eagles. Cruz would miss the rest of the year and would not see the field again until 2016. He attempted to return in 2015 but suffered a calf injury to the opposite leg after an extended rehab that went longer than expected.

Cruz finally returned to action in 2016 but was not the same. He had a rather mediocre season and never played another NFL game, eventually retiring prior to the 2018 season. The former Giants receiver was only 28 when he suffered the patellar injury. Jackson is 26.

A study by Northwestern Medicine in 2016 found that players who suffered this injury had the lowest return to play rate of common lower-body injuries. This study was around the same time that Jimmy Graham was returning to action with his torn patellar tendon.

Graham is probably the best example of this injury. After suffering the injury in 2015, Graham returned in 2016 and had another Pro Bowl season with over 900 receiving yards. He would play another five years in the league.

However, while he had a promising season directly after the injury, he was still a different player from that point on. After averaging 59.8 yards per game up to that point, Graham averaged just 28.2 yards per game the rest of his career. Plus, Graham was never successful because of his blazing speed at the tight end position. It is a bit different than being a corner.

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Luckily, J.C. Jackson is younger than both Cruz and Graham when they suffered their injuries but it still is not a promising sign. Hopefully, Jackson can recover fully and be the guy that the LA Chargers signed him to be.