PHILADELPHIA - It's been an eventful rookie season for Eagles rookie cornerback Mike Jacquet.
Call it the five stages of the undrafted - open an eye or two in training camp, hit the waiver wire, return to the practice squad, get elevated to the actual roster, and finally, contribute.
With starters Darius Slay (concussion) and Avonte Maddox (knee) out against Arizona, Jacquet, the lengthy 6-foot-1 former receiver out of Louisiana, was given the Herculean task of dealing with Cardinals wideout DeAndre Hopkins, arguably the best in the NFL.
Hopkins, a four-time All-Pro, got his with nine receptions for 169 yards and a circus-catch touchdown that turned out to be the game-winner in a 33-26 triumph but everyone was impressed with Jacquet's effort which made a superstar scratch and claw for everything he got.
"Yeah, I think that was awesome, safety Marcus Epps said when asked about Jacquet's performance. "You know what we have seen from him, you know things don't always go his way but he battled, he battled like crazy.
"And you know that's never an easy task for anyone to have to go toe to toe with that receiver core. Mainly, he was guarding D-Hop for most of the game but especially being an undrafted guy, coming in and your first real start having to just go toe to toe with him so I thought it was pretty cool how he never panicked. He was never scared or in doubt out there, he just went out there and battled."
Jim Schwartz also mentioned Jacquet's tough-minded nature.
"One thing about him is he is a confident player, and that means a lot at the corner position," the defensive coordinator said. "He doesn't get down if he gives up a play. He knows what the score is out there, meaning he knows that you don't pitch many shutouts on the outside part of the field. You're going to have to battle, particularly against great players. They're going to win some, you're going to win some."
Jacquet explained the CB mentality on Wednesday.
"Ah man, it’s just growing up in life," the Beaumont, TX native said. "You can’t dwell on what’s happened in the past. You gotta focus on the future and what’s going on in the present. You can’t change anything that’s happened in the past.
"What happened happened. You gotta go on to the next play, next day. Whatever it is in life. That’s how I am as a person. I don’t care what’s happened in the past. I’m gonna learn from it, yeah, but as far as having emotions and worrying about it, I’m not gonna do that."
Jacquet has some interesting traits for the position as well beyond the obvious ones like size and athleticism.
One of the reasons Jacquet went undrafted is his late start at the position. Once a dual-threat quarterback in high school he spent his first two college seasons on the offensive side of the ball as a receiver before making the transition to the defensive side.
"I don’t know if (playing WR) really helped as far as forgetting the last play," he said. "Coming from quarterback it does. Because if you make a bad play at quarterback you gotta forget that."
The receiver experience does help in other ways, however.
"Receivers have tendencies and split tendencies that they want to get to for certain routes," said Jacquet. "Coming from receiver, you would know that. Receivers like to lean and make sure they lean and then go the other way. So I learned that. Just the different things that receivers do, I implemented that into my corner game, because I knew and I know the different things they want to do. So that helped me a lot."
Schwartz is most impressed with the physicality Jacquet has brought to the defensive side, not always a hallmark of WRs who switch over.
"He is also, for a former wide receiver, he's played really tough," Schwartz said. "He hasn't been shy about contact, getting into the mix, and has played with a lot of spirit."
That manifested itself in two forced fumbles against the Cards' two biggest stars, Hopkins and QB Kyler Murray.
"Coach dialed up a perfect play," Jacquet said of the strip-sack of Murray he shared with Nickell Robey-Coleman. "I went in and sacked the quarterback. And when I sacked him, I kind of alligator-rolled. And when I rolled, he was still kind of on top of me. And Robe (NRC) was able to come and hit the ball. And when he hit the ball, I just held Kyler down until Robe was able to go and retrieve the fumble."
While Slay is expected back against Dallas in Week 16, Maddox is out for the rest of the regular season leaving the other outside CB position open with Jacquet likely in the mix with Kevon Seymour, a December pickup who has a bit more experience.
More so the undersized Maddox didn't perform all that well when healthy and may be better utilized in the slot or even safety in 2021.
That means Jacquet not only has the opportunity to nail down a short-term starting job but also a chance to prove he belongs in the mix moving forward.
"I've really been proud of him," Schwartz said. "Just like a lot of other players, the whole process we've gone through this year has really stunted a lot of players' development. But he's gaining ground. He's improving every day, and I was more impressed with the way he bounced back and the way he kept competing, and the way he kept challenging as opposed to the plays that he gave up."
"I think the sky's the limit for him," Epps added. "He's real athletic, he's tall, lanky. ... I think he can be a really good player in this league."
John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com's EagleMaven and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media. You can listen to John every Tuesday and Thursday on "The Middle" with Eytan Shander, Harry Mayes, and Barrett Brooks on SportsMap Radio and PhillyVoice.com. He’s also the host of Extending the Play on AM1490 in South Jersey. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen
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