Safe to say that J.C. Jackson is setting himself up for a sizable payday next offseason. The New England Patriots’ number one cornerback continues to play some impressive football, and on Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars reached a milestone only two other players have hit in their first four years in the NFL.
Jackson’s diving second-quarter interception of Jaguars rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence was the 25th of his career. That number ties him with Lester Hayes and Everson Walls for the most ever by a player in his first four seasons as a pro.
When asked about his thoughts on reaching the number, Jackson gave a brief answer.
“I could pat myself on the back but there’s more to come. I ain’t happy with that,” he said during his postgame press conference after the Patriots’ 50-10 victory over the Jaguars.
Jackson’s interceptions pace certainly is impressive, especially given his career path. Joining the league as a rookie free agent in 2018, he found his way onto the Patriots’ roster due to his playmaking ability and knack for the football.
Despite seeing only a part-time usage as a rookie, he finished his first season in the league with three interceptions. He had five the following year in a bigger role and nine in 2020 as the Patriots’ CB2 two alongside Stephon Gilmore. This season — with Gilmore traded to the Carolina Panthers — he has added eight more picks to his career totals; Jackson is ranked second in the league this year behind only the Dallas Cowboys’ Trevon Diggs.
Earlier this year, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick explained what makes Jackson such a productive player.
“I think his ball skills and anticipation are pretty good. High-end,” Bill Belichick said. “It’s everything. It’s when to look, picking up the ball. A lot of times his back’s to the ball when it leaves the quarterback’s hands ... He tracks the ball well in the deep part of the field. Anticipates well.”
Jackson’s accomplishments this season have earned him his first Pro Bowl nomination and solidified his status as one of the best cornerbacks in football. They also have helped him become a sought-after player with unrestricted free agency on the horizon.
Obviously, though, the Patriots could decide to keep him around by applying the franchise tag. Given his performance this season and throughout his career, such a move would make sense. That is especially true considering how valuable Jackson has been to the New England defense over the last four years and particularly following Gilmore’s departure in October.
Regardless of what happens in the future, Jackson has left his mark on the Patriots those last four years — and on the NFL’s record books.