The New England Patriots are at their best when they have an elite shutdown corner. This year’s team might have two.
J.C. Jackson is tough, resilient, confident, and he wants the world to know that he is a playmaker. His record-setting start validates his claim.
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“I’m a Playmaker, Man”
After struggling a bit in the Week 9 win over the New York Jets, but still coming up with a key interception that set up the game-winning drive, Jackson played like a man with something to prove against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday night.
During his post-game presser, Jackson bluntly reassured anyone who had become a doubter.
“I’m a playmaker, man. I know how to play the ball pretty well,” Jackson said. “I feel like I become the receiver. When I go up for the ball, I become the receiver and I make a play on the ball, every chance I get.”
That’s what he showed all night as he neutralized the Ravens’ speedy receiver Marqise Brown and came up with another big interception at the end of the first half.
Jackson doesn’t simply lead the league in interceptions, he has now recorded a pick in five consecutive games. Jackson is the only player in the NFL with a streak that long in the last five years, and he’s the only Patriots player to do it ever.
Filling in For the Defensive Player of the Year
Jackson has been a regular for a couple of years, but he just recently was in a position to step up[ as the team’s top cornerback. This happened because the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, Stephon Gilmore suffered a knee injury that has kept him out of the lineup for the past two games.
Jackson’s play makes it clear why some believe Gilmore might be expendable heading into the offseason. CBS Sports’ Tyler Sullivan wrote:
The 24-year-old, who now has six interceptions on the season, is looked at as one of the brightest up-and-coming players the Patriots have to offer. His rise to prominence carries with even more weight when you attach the uncertain future of Stephon Gilmore alongside it. While signed through 2021, Gilmore will likely be looking for a contract restructure this offseason that puts him more aligned with the elite corners in the NFL. Because of Gilmore’s age (he turns 31 next season), extending him at top dollar may not be something Bill Belichick and the Patriots brass will want to entertain, which then opens up the possibility of the two sides moving on this spring.
Having both is ideal, but it may not be feasible–especially with salary cap restrictions on the way thanks to the pandemic.
The Patriots Are Getting Stronger
Don’t look now, but Gilmore should be returning soon, along with wide receiver Julian Edelman and the team’s rookie tight ends Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene. If Jackson can continue to perform and the rest of the team gets healthier, the best could be yet to come for New England.
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