Aqib Talib, Darrelle Revis, Malcolm Butler, Stephon Gilmore, and now J.C. Jackson. The New England Patriots have had a run of elite number one cornerbacks over the past decade, and J.C. Jackson is now ready to take over. With Gilmore being surprisingly released on Wednesday morning before most New Englanders had their Dunkin, Jackson is now the man.
Now, Gilmore hasn’t played all year and Jackson has been outstanding so far, especially on Sunday night when he held Mike Evans to seven catches on 12 targets. Jackson has been a rising star since he was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2018 out of Maryland. He was tied for the league lead in interceptions last season and already has two this season.
Jackson’s road to getting to New England has been a long one. He was originally committed to the University of Florida until he was arrested in connection with an armed robbery in April of 2015. He was later acquitted of these charges in November of the same year and moved on to Riverside City College. Jackson ended up at Maryland and was tied for the team lead in interceptions with three in 2017.
Coming in as an undrafted free agent is never easy, but he was able to stand out, much like Malcolm Butler did, and earned his way onto the team. It was a relatively quick rise to stardom after that. In his rookie year, Jackson had three picks and in his sophomore season, he had five. He really rose last season with nine and is now one of the more underrated defensive backs in the league.
With Gilmore’s contract off the books, it will now be time for Jackson to be paid, which could be an issue for the Pats moving forward. He was brought back on a tender last season after no teams were willing to lose a second-round pick to sign him. Jackson will undoubtedly be looking for a payday and if the play continues on the field, it should come. He has earned the respect of teammates and his play definitely played a role in Gilmore’s release.
It is also worth noting that the play of Jalen Mills could have played a role in his release as well. Mills came over from Philadelphia in the offseason and the “Green Goblin” is more of a slot corner, but he has thrived so far in New England. When you don’t hear about corners, it is almost always a good thing, and that is the case for Mills.
Stephon Gilmore will leave a hole in the secondary because of how talented he is, but New England has the pieces to make it work, and it has shown so far. The Pats are a top-five defense in the league when it comes to passing yards. Teams have only thrown for an average of 185 yards on them this year, and that is a testament to the players on the field.
Gilmore will leave as one of the more successful signings in Patriots history, coming up with huge plays in his time there. That pass breakup against Jacksonville to send them to the Super Bowl is what sparked an unbelievable run for him as a Patriot, and the one-time Super Bowl champion and 2019 Defensive Player of the Year will be sorely missed in a Patriots uniform. If he were to go anywhere, it only makes sense for him to go home to Carolina where he grew up and played his college ball.