Each day, following Patriots training camp practice, we'll highlight one intriguing "long shot" to make the roster. What might that player bring to the table for Bill Belichick's club? Who's he competing with for a spot? And what does he have to do to make the club?
FOXBORO -- We're only two days in to Patriots training camp and already the cornerback spot is one that looks like it could be the most competitive of the summer.
There are the known commodities, of course. Stephon Gilmore is a true No. 1. Jason McCourty and Eric Rowe look like the top two choices for the No. 2 spot.
After that? It's a toss-up. Will second-rounder Duke Dawson stake his claim at the "star" position, the slot spot in the Patriots nickel defense? Or will it be one of the Jones boys -- Jonathan or Cyrus -- who return from injury to man the inside?
Further complicating matters are a pair of little-known rookie cover men who continue to make plays that demand attention: seventh-round pick Keion Crosson (who we featured in this space on Thursday) and undrafted rookie JC Jackson.
"It's gonna be really competitive," Rowe said following Friday's practice. "Even the rookies are pretty good. Obviously Steph and Jason, an eight year vet, me in the mix. We have a really good group. I know it's a long way to go, but everyone's showing life."
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Jackson showed some liveliness in the spring, at times aligning across from Gilmore as the No. 2 corner with the Patriots regulars. The knack he displayed for being in the right place at the right time showed itself again in the second Patriots training camp practice of the summer.
Going up against a Brian Hoyer-led offense, Jackson read the play seemingly from the jump, undercut a route run by Devin Lucien and easily picked off the throw that was intended to lead Lucien to the sideline.
Should Jackson continue to flash those kinds of ball skills, he may earn himself a roster spot. Also helping him? The fact that special teams coach Joe Judge appears to have an eye on Jackson as a contributor in the kicking game. Jackson worked alongside special teams specialist Brandon King and with Judge off to the side during one practice period on Friday.
In two seasons at Maryland, Jackson had four picks and 17 pass breakups, and he was an All-Big 10 honorable mention player last year. The 5-foot-10, 201-pounder might've been drafted had it not been for an arrest that led to his departure from the University of Florida.
Should Jackson be able to stay healthy -- something that helped him get reps in the spring when Crossen was dinged up and limited -- and should he find a role to use his athleticism in the kicking game, the Patriots could find a way to carve out for him a roster spot at a position group that looks like it will be hotly contested well into August.