The New England Patriots have long prided themselves on their defense. With the success the unit has had over the last 20 years under Bill Belichick, it is inevitable, a swagger will accompany the accolades.
That’s why 25-year-old cornerback J.C. Jackson fits right in.
Jackson recently spoke with NFL.com’s Mike Giardi about his rise from little-known college prospect to one of the better young players in the league at his position. Except, don’t tell Jackson he’s simply one of the better young players, he is likely to correct you by saying he is one of the best, period.
Jackson Considers Himself a No. 1 Cornerback in the NFL
Jackson has all the respect in the world for his teammate, former NFL Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore. Speaking to Giardi, Jackson said this about Gilmore.
“I mean, he was very helpful for me because even, especially in the meeting rooms, watching the film, I mean I sit right beside him and try to copy his notes,” Jackson said. “That’s how crazy it is. That’s how much I look up to him.”
However, that doesn’t mean he takes a backseat to him.
Jackson has been discussed as a potential replacement for Gilmore, should the Patriots move on in the midst of the latter’s holdout. While it seems the two sides are moving closer to a resolution, considering Gilmore was present for training camp on Thursday, Jackson still might find himself in that position if the Patriots don’t extend his teammate beyond this season.
When asked if he considers himself a top corner, Jackson responded confidently:
“Of course I am. I would never settle for less. I would never say I’m No. 2, No. 3. I’m No. 1.”
It takes a rare beast to play corner in the NFL. The elite guys have a ton of confidence and short memories. Even the best will be beaten at times. It’s the nature of the game as they are often on an island against the some of the best athletes in the world.
However, they have to lean harder on the successes than the losses. Jackson had some high-profile losses in 2020, especially going head-to-head with Buffalo Bills superstar Stefon Diggs.
After a nine-catch, 145-yard, 2-touchdown performance from Diggs with Gilmore out and Jackson checking him the entire game, some wondered if the Patriots’ young corner had what it takes to step into his teammate’s shoes.
Here is a look at the battle between Jackson and Diggs.
While Diggs got the better of Jackson in this game, the latter did finish second in the NFL with 9. In three seasons in the NFL, he already has a whopping 17 interceptions.
Quite honestly, he should have been a Pro-Bowler.
Patriots are Better With Jackson and Gilmore
The growth and maturation of Jackson aren’t complete. He could take a huge leap in 2021. That said, it is hard to imagine the Patriots being better off with Jackson stepping into Gilmore’s role.
Gilmore is still an elite corner, and if Jackson becomes one as well, the Patriots could have arguably the best tandem at the position in the NFL. Based on what the team has done in the front seven this offseason, we could be looking at an elite overall defense again in 2021.
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