Jaguars' Ramsey earns AFC honor, NFL award could be next
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey had one thought as he scampered toward his first NFL touchdown: Deion Sanders.
Ramsey badly wanted to offer a tribute to the retired NFL star and fellow Florida State standout, but when he peaked over his shoulder at the 10-yard line, Tennessee Titans receiver Rishard Matthews was too close for the rookie to start high-stepping.
Maybe next time.
Given the way Ramsey has played this season, especially over the last four games, he's sure to get another shot at imitating ''Prime Time.''
Ramsey was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week on Wednesday, the first time he's received any accolade for his impressive debut season. The Jaguars (3-12) hope it strengthens his case for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award, which will be presented in February.
''To do stuff like that and to get awarded for it is cool,'' Ramsey said Wednesday. ''But as long as my teammates and my coaches see what I'm putting on out there, that's really what matters.''
Ramsey has been putting on a show.
The fifth overall pick in the 2016 draft has emerged as a shutdown cornerback, shadowing No. 1 receivers on a weekly basis and rarely getting beat.
''He has everything you want from athletic ability to size to ball skills to speed,'' Jaguars interim coach Doug Marrone said. ''I see someone who goes out there that is extremely competitive, has confidence within his ability to get the job done. I still, to this day, cannot tell you what the ceiling is on him. He's still a very young player. He's still learning every day. There is no telling how great of a player he could be.''
Ramsey expects to be the best, which is why the only thing that surprised him this season is the team's lack of success.
Ramsey has been a bright spot for a floundering franchise that accumulated double-digit losses for the sixth consecutive season and then fired coach Gus Bradley following a nine-game losing streak.
The 22-year-old Ramsey was at his best in a 38-17 victory against the Titans on Saturday, registering four solo tackles and four passes defensed. The highlight was his Pick-6 with 5:17 remaining. He recognized the formation, jumped the route, intercepted the ball and headed the other way.
It was the first Pick-6 by a rookie in franchise history and his second interception in as many weeks.
''Just opportunity really,'' Ramsey said. ''I feel like I've progressed every week, coming along during the season. I've gotten better and better as the year's went on. Just trying to keep grinding and finish strong.''
Ramsey would love to close out the season with three in a row. The Jaguars end at Indianapolis (7-8) on Sunday, where Ramsey is sure to draw T.Y. Hilton, who leads the league with 1,353 yards receiving.
''He's good. He does a lot of things well,'' Hilton said. ''He's a big corner. He likes to get his hands on you. He's very physical. He's playing with a lot of confidence and a lot of swagger. As a DB, you need that. But right now he definitely has elevated his game.''
According to Pro Football Focus, Ramsey has held receivers to 50 yards or fewer in 10 of 15 games. Over the last four weeks, he has allowed 12 catches for 145 yards on 35 targets - making him the NFL's highest-graded cornerback during that span.
And he's still just a rookie.
''The longer he's in this league and the more challenges he has, he is only going to get better,'' defensive coordinator Todd Wash said. ''We are very, very pleased with him and we will continue to put him on their best wideout, and he will respond. We are obviously very, very pleased with Jalen.''
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