The New England Patriots are a veteran team on defense, but that doesn't mean the unit is without exciting young players.
One defensive player with a bright future is cornerback J.C. Jackson.
Jackson, who the Patriots signed as an undrafted free agent in 2018, had a tremendous 2019 season. He played all 16 games and tallied five interceptions, tied for the second-most in the league. Jackson's 37.0 passer rating allowed when targeted was the best among all cornerbacks, per Pro Football Focus. Over the last two years, Jackson has given up just three receptions and intercepted six passes when targeted on passes 20-plus yards down the field, according to PFF.
Expectations are high for Jackson entering the 2020 season, and so far, he's performed well in training camp.
"Yeah, J.C. continues to improve," Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said Monday morning in a video conference call. "I think his understanding of the defense and his ability to play different spots within the defense has grown, and that gives us some flexibility on a number of levels.
"He’s had a good camp, been out there every day, he’s taken a lot of reps, he’s in good condition, his techniques and fundamentals are pretty good. So, he continues to make plays for us on the field and expand the things that he can do to provide, as I said, more versatility and for him to create either bigger or sometimes different roles for himself or for his teammates. He’s done a good job for us."
The Patriots lost several linebackers and other front seven players in the offseason, but the secondary has mostly remained intact. New England's secondary still ranks as one of the league's best, and for the team to get back to the playoffs for a 12th consecutive season, this unit will need to play at a high level consistently. If Jackson is able to take his game to even further heights in 2020, the Patriots should continue to be a tough team to throw against.