22-year-old J.C. Jackson said he knew he had something to prove Thursday night.
“I knew I had to ball,” Jackson told reporters after New England’s 17-12 win over the New York Giants. “This is the last preseason game. I’m trying to make the roster.”
Jackson, who went undrafted in April, started the contest alongside seventh-round pick Keion Crossen. He logged a heck of a game, intercepting Giants quarterback Kyle Lauletta twice. He also defended four incomplete passes.
“Coach was telling me all week to turn my head around on the deep ball, so I turned my head around and I just made a play on the ball,” Jackson said of his first interception. “I became the receiver and made a play.”
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Jackson is battling for a roster spot against fellow cornerbacks Cyrus Jones, Ryan Lewis, Jason McCourty, A.J. Moore, Jomal Wiltz, and Crossen. Jackson said he doesn’t know whether he’ll make the 53-man squad — the final cutdown date is Saturday — but he said he felt like he “improved every day” throughout OTAs, training camp, and preseason. Jackson also played in all four preseason games.
“I go out to practice, work hard, and just do what the coaches ask me to do,” he said.
Coach Bill Belichick said Jackson has been “competitive,” though “not perfect.”
“He has some things to learn, but he competes hard, tackled well, made a couple good plays on the ball,” Belichick said after the game Thursday.
Jackson, too, acknowledged he has plenty of room for growth, but that doesn’t mean veteran members of the secondary aren’t impressed with what they’ve seen.
“He’s played really well throughout camp,” safety Devin McCourty said, via NESN’s Doug Kyed. “I think he’s showed a great skill set of just going out there and being able to lock up guys. [He’s] really competitive with whoever we put him on throughout camp and throughout all the preseason games.”
“We’ve seen what he’s been able to do,” safety Duron Harmon added. “He’s been playing those fade balls like that all year. When he gets a good jam and runs, he’s either there knocking it off or he’s picking it off. It was good to see him have some success tonight and play the way he did because he’s a capable player.”