The New England Patriots’ secondary is perhaps the deepest group on the roster. It is most definitely the aspect of the defense that the coaching staff and the fanbase likely feel the most confidence in on a weekly basis.
Because of how deep and talented the defensive backs are, there are a few quality players on the unit who might not get the kind of attention and credit they deserve. According to Ben Linsey of Pro Football Focus, Patriots’ third-year cornerback, J.C. Jackson is one of those guys. Linsey identified Jackson as the most underrated player on the Patriots’ roster.
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Linsey on Jackson
Through Jackson’s two years in the NFL, all with the Patriots, he has amassed eight interceptions, and that includes five during the 2019 season. As a rookie, for the 2018 Super Bowl champion team, Jackson snagged three picks.
PFF’s Linsey went beyond the basic statistics to add more credence to his claims about Jackson:
Coming out of Maryland as an undrafted free agent in 2018, Jackson has quickly carved a nice role for himself in a crowded New England secondary. He has looked like anything but a young undrafted cornerback over the last two seasons, particularly when teams have tested him down the football field. Since 2018, he has been targeted 29 times 20 or more yards downfield — on those plays, he has allowed just three receptions compared to six interceptions and 10 forced incompletions. There may be a lot of talent in the Patriots’ secondary, limiting his ability to jump into a full-time starting role outside, but Jackson is a name to know.
At 6’1″ 198 pounds, Jackson has the physical tools to check bigger receivers, and on the opposite side of all-word corner Stephon Gilmore, the two create an opposing tandem to quarterbacks and wide receivers.
The best could be yet to come for Jackson. He doesn’t turn 25 until November, so it’s very possible he hasn’t hit his prime. If that’s the case, the Patriots’ already stingy secondary could be on track to get even better in 2020. That’s a scary thought considering the unit anchored the NFL’s best defense throughout most of the 2019 season.
Underrated doesn’t mean underappreciated. If you were to ask the New England Patriots about J.C. Jackson’s worth, they probably wouldn’t hesitate to tell you. As of right now, Jason McCourty figures to start games opposite Gilmore, but because most NFL teams play most sets with multiple receivers, and the Patriots use as many as seven defensive backs on the field at one time, Jackson will continue to get a lot of reps.
If his uptick continues, he won’t be the team’s most-underrated player for long.
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