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Patriots optimistic about J.C. Jackson’s development after return: ‘He’ll get better’

The former Pro Bowler returned to New England last week.

New Orleans Saints v New England Patriots Photo by Kathryn Riley/Getty Images

J.C. Jackson has played more games in New England than a significant number of his Patriots teammates, and yet he is still not fully up to speed after rejoining the club via trade.

But even though it takes to work him back into the mix, there is optimism that the veteran cornerback will regain his old form in a familiar setting. Now one week into his second tenure as a Patriot, his coaches are seeing encouraging signs of that.

“He’ll get better,” promised de facto co-defensive coordinator Jerod Mayo earlier this week. “It’s been a while since he’s played.”

After starting his career in New England and growing from undrafted rookie to Pro Bowler, Jackson left for the Los Angeles Chargers during the 2022 offseason; he signed a five-year, $82.5 million contract to become one of the NFL’s highest-paid cornerbacks. Despite the investment, however, his stint on the West Coast was largely a disappointing one.

Not only did Jackson appear to be miscast in a defense relying on more zone coverage than its Patriots counterpart, he also suffered a season-ending patellar injury after just five games. The 27-year-old did return to the field this year, but was unhappy with his usage.

As a consequence of him and the team not seeing eye-to-eye, he was traded back to the Patriots. Shortly thereafter he appeared in his first game, playing 36 of 72 snaps in a 34-0 loss to the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.

“It’s one week, we’ve got a long way to go, a lot of things to work on,” said head coach Bill Belichick. “But J.C. is working hard. He’s getting back into the way we do things. It’s a little bit different than the way they did them at the Chargers. It’s a process, but he’s working hard at it. I’m glad we have him and he’s doing well.”

With the Patriots’ cornerback group suffering several high-profile injuries — including rookie stalwart Christian Gonzalez — the team was in need of some improved depth at the position. It found it in Jackson, who has proven himself in the system.

And while he is in the midst of a ramp-up period toward more playing time, it appears the team expects him to get close to his prior levels of play again.