Despite ranking second in the NFL with eight interceptions this season, Pro Bowl snub J.C. Jackson believes he has yet to reach his full potential.
“I feel like I had an OK season,” the New England Patriots cornerback said Thursday in a video conference. “I could have done much better. In some games, I could have played better, better performance. I’ll never get myself credit. I can be way better than I was this year, trust me. They haven’t seen nothing yet.”
Only Miami Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard has intercepted more passes this season (nine) than Jackson. Howard also is the only NFL player with more picks than Jackson since the latter’s career began in 2018 (17 to 16).
Beyond the interception totals, Jackson’s 52.0 passer rating against this season ranks fourth among all cornerbacks with at least 200 snaps, according to Pro Football Focus. He led the league in that category in 2019.
These numbers weren’t enough to earn Jackson his first Pro Bowl selection, though. The 25-year-old was left off the AFC roster for this season’s NFL all-star game, losing out to Howard, Baltimore’s Marlon Humphrey, Buffalo’s Tre’Davious White and New England teammate Stephon Gilmore.
Did Jackson feel like he deserved a Pro Bowl nod? Yeah, he did. But he isn’t dwelling on the lack of recognition. If anything, he said, it’ll motivate him to play even better next season.
“I really don’t care, man,” Jackson said. “To be honest with you, I’m focusing on Buffalo right now. I’ve got to finish out my season strong for myself and my teammates. That’s all gonna fall in place. I know what I can do. I know I’m a Pro Bowler in my eyes and, like, it is what it is, man. Like, who cares?”
He added: “I love this position. man. It just makes me go harder. It just gives me that drive to keep balling and to keep proving to people wrong.”
With Gilmore now on injured reserve after undergoing season-ending surgery this week, Jackson will close out the season as New England’s No. 1 cornerback. He had his two worst statistical games of the year while Gilmore was sidelined with a knee injury in early November, allowing a total of nine catches on 17 targets for 181 yards and two touchdowns in matchups with the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets, according to Pro Football Focus.
Jackson hauled in an interception in each of the three games Gilmore missed, however, and will get another shot at the Bills (Monday night) and Jets (next Sunday) in Weeks 16 and 17.
“I just have to step up and be that guy,” said Jackson, who’s set to hit restricted free agency in March. “Just have to be that guy and be the No. 1 corner and play like the No. 1 corner, not just be out there just to be out there. I’ve got to play like a No. 1 corner.”
He’ll face a difficult matchup this week in Buffalo receiver Stefon Diggs, who leads the NFL with 111 catches for 1,314 yards and five touchdowns this season. Diggs caught six passes on nine targets for 92 yards in the teams’ first meeting, a 24-21 Bills win.
“He’s one of the best receivers in the game,” Jackson said. “So it’s a big matchup for me, a big responsibility for me and my team. … I love it, man. (Expletive), just show me my opponent.”