J.C. Jackson Tabbed as Patriots' Most Underrated Player
Following the 2020 NFL Draft, Maryland now has 20 former Terps on an active NFL roster entering the season. But as the new wave of rookies get acclimated into their new roles, several undrafted free agents like Chicago Bears linebacker Keandre Jones and New York Giants running back Javon Leake will look to carve their niche on the roster just like one former Terp.
After going undrafted in the 2018 NFL Draft, the New England Patriots signed cornerback J.C. Jackson to a three-year, $1.8 million-dollar deal as they looked to improve upon the fourth-worst pass defense in the league a season ago. Jackson capitalized on that opportunity as a rookie, playing in all but three games and tallied 24 tackles and three interceptions as he saw an increased role heading into the playoffs. He finished his rookie year with a league-leading 42.0 passer rating when targeted and according to PFF, Jackson has allowed just three catches against six interceptions and 10 forced incompletions on 29 targets 20 or more yards downfield.
The departure of veteran cornerback Malcolm Butler following the 2018 season vaulted Jackson into contention for a larger role on the Patriots’ defense.
Jackson played in all 16 games last season, nearly doubling his interceptions from 2018, as he started six games and registered 57 snaps in the season-ending loss to the Tennessee Titans. Heading into year three, Jackson has found his role alongside starting corners Stephon Gilmore and Jason McCourty. A month after being named the most underrated Patriots player by Pro Football Focus, Doug Farrar of USA Today also named Jackson the Patriots’ most underrated player.
“As always seems to be the case with Bill Belichick, the Patriots made up for one personnel shortfall (a highly suspect receiver group) by amplifying another (with the NFL’s best secondary by far). Cornerback Stephon Gilmore, the 2019 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, is the headliner, but as far as pure efficiency in that (or any other) secondary, nobody came close to J.C. Jackson. Last season, no cornerback playing at least half his team’s defensive snaps came anywhere near Jackson’s opponent passer rating allowed of 35.9, which he amassed by allowing just 31 receptions on 65 targets for 328 yards, one touchdown, and five interceptions. Far from a beneficiary of the efforts of other great players, Jackson has the talent to be a No. 1 cornerback on most NFL teams ”
Jackson won’t be the only former Terp cornerback in the league as the New Orleans Saints signed Tino Ellis following the 2020 NFL Draft, while the Terps have three safeties in the league with Antoine Brooks in Pittsburgh, Darnell Savage in Green Bay and Sean Davis in Washington.
After transferring from Florida following his freshman season, Jackson spent one season at Riverside Community College as Miami, Oklahoma and USF extended offers with South Carolina the initial perceived landing spot, but it was Maryland where Jackson spent his final two seasons. Jackson started in 23 of his 25 games as he tallied 80 tackles, 17 pass deflections and four interceptions as the Florida native rejuvenated his college career.