New England Patriots: J.C. Jackson a massive undrafted success story

Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images /

New England Patriots DB J.C. Jackson has quickly climbed the ranks from 2018 undrafted hopeful to continual starter in Foxborough.

The New England Patriots are built on turning today’s unknown player into tomorrow’s proven starter. One of the more recent examples would be the rise of 24-year old defensive back J.C. Jackson.

As Jackson enters Year 3 of his NFL career, the sky appears to be the limit for a player who has only gotten better since his arrival in New England. Undrafted out of the University of Maryland in 2018, he was given a chance as a free agent signing with the Patriots on May 11 of that year.

Working his way into the already crowded depth-chart would be challenging. Still, the door was slightly opened after the free agency departure of undrafted legend Malcolm Butler to the Tennessee Titans. This, combined with the Patriots recent 41-33 Super Bowl LII loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, showed they could use some secondary help.

Jackson was on the roster bubble at the beginning of the 2018 training camp. When preseason rolled around, he turned into arguably the biggest playmaker on the field. In his final preseason game against the New York Giants, he collected two interceptions and was playing on absolute lockdown mode.

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A much-deserved spot on the 53-man roster was awarded to the Patriots preseason standout. After making his regular-season debut against the Detroit Lions in Week 3, Jackson was quick to record his first career interception the following game against the Miami Dolphins.

As the season progressed, an injury to teammate Eric Rowe increased Jackson’s playing time. From Weeks 13-17, Jackson was on the field for over 90 percent of the Patriots defensive snaps. A Week 16 victory over the Buffalo Bills saw Jackson play all 61 defensive snaps while snagging his third interception of the season.

The Patriots playoff run placed Jackson in critical roles like covering Chiefs’ receiver Tyreek Hill in the AFC Championship game. Confidence continued to grow all the way to Atlanta, where Jackson would take part in a historic defensive victory against the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII.

Now a Super Bowl champion, Jackson looked to build on his promising start in his 2019 campaign. Playing alongside the eventual 2019 Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore, New England had one of their best defensive seasons in franchise history.

Once again fans were watching Jackson improve game-by-game. The entire secondary looked as if they were outdoing each other, slingshotting New England to an 8-0 record to start the year.

While the Patriots would cool down and eventually stumble to a Wild Card exit against the Titans, the summary of Jackson’s sophomore season was a bright spot. Finishing the year with five interceptions, Pro Football Focus showed that he is not just any average ballhawk.

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There will always be undrafted playmakers just waiting for their one chance to prove themselves. From the day Jackson took the field in a Patriots uniform, he took advantage of every opportunity given to him. You never know how long players will last in New England, but the numbers show that Jackson continues on the path to a significant NFL career.