It's "next man up" for the New England Patriots with Stephon Gilmore headed to the Carolina Panthers. In the Patriots' cornerback room, that next man is J.C. Jackson.
Jackson has been the team's top corner through the first four weeks of the season with Gilmore on the PUP list. With 11 interceptions over his last 20 games played, the 25-year-old certainly has looked capable of securing that No. 1 role long-term.
Still, even as the top CB on New England's depth chart with Gilmore gone, Jackson isn't ready to consider himself a No. 1 corner just yet.
"No, I'm not there yet. I'm not there yet," Jackson said. "I still got work to do. I still gotta improve. I still got a lot to improve. So I feel like I don't want to get too complacent.
"I never tell myself I'm there yet. That's what keeps me motivated and keeps me going."
As for Gilmore, there was no doubting the 2019 Defensive Player of the Year's status as not only the team's top cornerback, but also one of the NFL's best when healthy.
Jackson admitted he was taken aback by the news of Gilmore and the Patriots parting ways.
“I was kind of shocked, but I know it's a business at the end of the day," he said. "I’m still shocked he’s not here.”
Jackson was second in the NFL with nine interceptions during the 2020 campaign, trailing only Miami Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard (10). He's scheduled to become a free agent after this season and will look to get paid four years after going undrafted.