The New England Patriots have a top-tier secondary, and one player who doesn't get enough credit for his excellent performance is J.C. Jackson.
The 24-year-old cornerback is the third-highest graded cornerback in the NFL by Pro Football Focus through seven games.
Here's what PFF's Sam Monson wrote about Jackson's play to this point:
"Stephon Gilmore is the best player in New England’s secondary, but it would be remiss to ignore the coverage numbers J.C. Jackson has put up during his time in the NFL, and this season the PFF grade is joining them at elite levels. Jackson has three interceptions and four pass breakups from only 19 targets in coverage, and he has allowed a passer rating of just 38.9 when targeted over his career — a mark just slightly lower than the one opposing quarterbacks would produce if they just threw the ball into the dirt every play instead."
Jackson leads the Patriots with three interceptions and seven passes defensed. He set career highs with five interceptions and 10 passes defensed in 2019, and he's on pace to surpass those numbers this season.
The Patriots defense has played poorly at times in 2020, including last week's 33-6 blowout loss to the San Francisco 49ers, but the cornerback position has been a strength. Jonathan Jones, Gilmore and Jackson all have played well. The problem for the Patriots defense is it can't consistently stop the run and the pass rush isn't putting enough pressure on the opposing quarterback.
The Patriots don't have many young stars. The top players on the roster are mostly older veterans. Jackson is among the exceptions. He's one of the most underrated cornerbacks in the league and one of the players the Patriots could build their defense around going forward.