Led by the NFL’s reigning Defensive Player of the Year, the New England Patriots’ cornerback room is arguably the best in the NFL. While Stephon Gilmore is an absolute superstar and true shutdown corner, the depth surrounding him is no less impressive: J.C. Jackson and Jason McCourty are among the league’s better perimeter defenders; Jonathan Jones is one of the top slot corners in football; Joejuan Williams offers quality depth and versatility to play more than one spot.
The unit is as deep as any in football, and the players certainly know about the qualities they bring to the table as individuals and as a whole. Take J.C. Jackson, for example, who just recently spoke about his coverage abilities.
“I can cover anything, like getting out on an island,” he said during a media conference call earlier this week. “Intermediate routes, deep balls, I got a lot more deep balls last year and in my first year, and I just took advantage of my opportunities when it came my way. But I can cover anything.”
Jackson is not the first Patriots cornerback to express confidence in his abilities. Gilmore, while more of a quiet presence that usually lets his play do the talking, said the following during the 2019 season.
“I will let everyone else have their opinion. I am confident in myself each and every play. I try and work hard each and every day to be successful on the field,” he said in early September of what would turn out to be his second straight All-Pro season. Later that same year, after shutting down one of the NFL’s best wide receivers in the Dallas Cowboys’ Amari Cooper, Gilmore sang a similar tune about his skills.
“He’s one of the best wide receivers in the league. But I’m confident in myself. He’s a tough guy to cover, but I believe in my technique and I believe in myself.”
The confidence being expressed by Gilmore and Jackson is a result of both having played some tremendous football as of late. They ranked first and fourth in the league last season in interceptions, and allowed not even half of the passes thrown their way to be completed (55 of 137). Their play was a big reason why New England’s defense ranked first in the league in every major category — most importantly scoring — so they have earned the right to be confident.
This may go against the perceived principles of the so-called “Patriot Way,” but the team’s cornerbacks coach has another opinion.
“Confidence is key at this position,” said Mike Pellegrino when asked by 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Alex Barth about Jackson’s comments during a conference call on Wednesday. “You know, most of the time you’re out there on an island. So, you’ve got to have some confidence.”
“You’ve also got to be humble, right?” continued Pellegrino. “You’ve got to get out there and know what you have to do and execute. Comes from practice repetition into game reality. So, if you come out there every single day, your work your tail off, you get the job done in practice, and on top of that, in the weight room, in the classroom, in the offseason, you go out there, you have that confidence to cover the guys, it’s going to carry over. So, I’m all for confidence.”
Based on their recent performances, the Patriots’ cornerbacks have every reason to feel confident. The same goes for their coach. He may only be 27 years old and entering his second season at the job, but he too has earned the right to be confident — in himself and in his players.