He’s still very young — and yes, he still went undrafted two years ago — but make no mistake: New England Patriots cornerback J.C. Jackson is a star.
One of the most unheralded and underrated players on the 2020 New England Patriots roster may end up making the biggest difference this season.
J.C. Jackson has been nothing short of sensational over his first two seasons in the NFL. Astoundingly, the former Maryland Terrapin went undrafted altogether back in 2018, signing with the Pats nearly a full month after the draft had concluded.
He hasn’t looked back since.
Jackson played in 13 games as a rookie, despite starting below Stephon Gilmore, Eric Rowe, and Jason McCourty on the depth chart. He still managed to log 24 tackles, three interceptions, and six passes defended. Jackson graded out as one of the best cornerbacks in the league in pass coverage.
He was even better in his sophomore effort last year. This time, playing in all 16 regular seasons for New England, Jackson racked up 36 tackles, five interceptions, and 10 passes defended. He also blocked a punt in Week 4 against the Buffalo Bills that Matthew Slater returned for a touchdown in 2019.
According to NBC Sports Boston’s Nick Goss, Jackson “will be a huge part” of the Patriots’ plans this coming season in terms of their dominant secondary and stellar defense, the undisputed strength of the 2020 New England team.
As ProFootballFocus notes, Jackson has only allowed three receptions on targets over 20 yards downfield in his two seasons as a pro. He has, however, come up with six interceptions on those same plays.
This guy is a star.
The only question in 2020 now is whether Jackson becomes a star outside of Foxborough as well.
Best-case scenario projection for 2020
To that end, the best-case scenario for Jackson is he continues to build on his hot start in the NFL and begins turning heads outside of the six New England states in 2020.
Diehard Pats fans who catch every game every week during the season are all-too-familiar with No. 27 at this point.
But it’s high-time fans outside of Patriots Nation start to take notice as well. After all, this guy tied for second in the league last year in interceptions with five — he deserves a little bit of national recognition and respect, at the very least.
With opposing offensive coordinators and quarterbacks sure to throw away from Gilmore this season, that puts more of an onus on the other New England defensive backs. It will be up to Jackson, Jonathan Jones, and Jason McCourty to prove they’re up to the task.
They all should be. If anything, perhaps Jackson ends up leap-frogging McCourty this year for the No. 2 spot at some point in the season. It feels like it’s just a matter of time till Jackson becomes the Robin to Gilmore’s Batman … and then perhaps even Bruce Wayne himself in time.
Worst-case scenario projection for 2020
Jackson seems as safe a bet as any player on this Patriots roster when it comes to predicting whose arrow is decidedly pointing up.
That said, there’s always a risk that someone ends up being a flash in the pan in the NFL — good for a season or two, then mediocre or bad from there on out. Especially when it comes to late-round draft picks and undrafted guys, the league’s history is littered with one or two-hit wonders who didn’t last.
Perhaps Jackson overperformed in his first two seasons and he’s not nearly as good as everyone thinks he is. Perhaps now that the rest of the NFL is beginning to take notice of him finally and pay him the proper amount of respect, the moment proves too large for him and he wilts under the added pressure.
Not likely though.
We’re betting that J.C. Jackson continues his impressive ascension to national recognition and prominence in 2020 as one of the NFL’s top cornerbacks — despite the obvious talent and proven ability of the two names ahead of him on New England’s depth chart (Gilmore and McCourty).