Third-year cornerback J.C. Jackson has turned in another strong training camp and will be looking to continue his path toward becoming a top-flight NFL cornerback in 2020. The ascending former undrafted rookie made strides in all areas last season, staying healthy and going from six passes defensed to 10 and from three interceptions to five.
His improvement has been perpetual and people are starting to take notice that Jackson is one of the best young corners in the league.
"J.C. continues to improve," said head coach Bill Belichick prior to practice on Monday. "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."
"I've been trying to get better each and every day, trying to improve each year," said Jackson after practice via Webex. "I guess that's what I'm doing, the game is slowing down, it's slowed down for me a lot from my last two seasons."
Jackson has benefited both on and off the field from playing with Stephon Gilmore. Gilmore not only handles some of the top targets in the league but he's an experienced veteran willing to share his tips of the trade with the rest of the secondary. It's not hard to see why the group is one of the deepest and most talented in the league.
"I just try to pick up little things off his game and try to put it in my game," said Jackson of his teammate who happens to be the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year. "Knowledge is power. Getting something from him will help me out big time in my game."
Though Jackson said he wasn't surprised that outlets like Pro Football Focus and NFL Next Gen Stats are starting to take notice, he knows this is a new season.
"Each year is different," said Jackson. "No matter what the stats are from last year, you got to prove yourself, you got to earn a roster spot. My stats from last year don't mean anything. I just come to work with my head down and I just come in ready to work and get better.
"You got to have that dog mentality, you got to have that drive, no matter the situation."
With training camp practice now over, we'll only be getting a brief glimpse of stretching and some early portions of practice. Today, the team was in full pads on the upper fields.
"We're moving into kind of another phase here in terms of the ending of the training camp period and the beginning of the regular season preparation week," said Bill Belichick. "So, we'll kind of transition through that this week, and then next week we'll be in a full game preparation week for Miami."
Returning to practice: Chase Winovich, Lamar Miller (now off PUP)
Limited: Devin McCourty, Adrian Phillips, Jakobi Meyers (red jersey)
Absent during open portion: Cam Newton (new), Isaiah Wynn (new), David Andrews (new), Michael Barnett (new), Damien Harris (new), Beau Allen, Michael Jackson
Practice access is scheduled for 9:30am on Tuesday.
Webex Quotes of Note
Ja'Whaun Bentley on working with younger players at his position group:
"As far as being a rookie, you can still give information as a rookie, you can still take in different information as a rookie. Being in your third year there might be more information that you can give but that doesn't put you aside as a rookie, you still have information to give. We're all transferring information as a defense, as a team, so we're all getting better and nobody feels like they can't say something because it's their first year."
Xavier Williams on his impression of the Patriots after coming over from Kansas City:
"It's really interesting, I mean it's like a top-notch organization here. The facilities are ridiculous, good coaching staff, practices are good, they're pretty hard, they kind of get after it. I like it. Everybody here, young guys, are really close teammates with everybody. I like the environment."
Matthew Slater on Cam Newton:
"Whenever you have a player like Cam, who is a high profile player in the league, I think along with him travel expectations and unfair judgments that have been passed along the way, whether they're good or bad. But I've really enjoyed my time with Cam, I think he's a very thoughtful person. I think he cares a great deal about football and I think he's really tried to invest in relationships in our locker room and with young players. That's been fun to watch."