Patriots

NFL analyst lists J.C. Jackson as potential Pro Bowler for Patriots in 2021

NFL.com's Marc Sessler suggests Jackson could be in line for a big payday if he plays well during a contract year.

J.C. Jackson Patriots
J.C. Jackson intercepts a pass. Andy Lyons/Getty Images
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After a disappointing 2020, the Patriots defense figures to bounce back in a big way this coming season.

New faces on the front seven, like Matt Judon and Christian Barmore, the return of key figures like veterans Dont’a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy, and the impending rise of linebacker Josh Uche had the defense resembling its 2019 form in OTAs and minicamp — a welcome sight for a team with big questions on offense.

Of course, one other big question still needs answering on the defensive side of the ball: will Stephon Gilmore suit up for the Patriots again, and what will he look like if he does? The star cornerback has been the subject of trade rumors and is also rehabbing from a torn quad, putting his future in Foxboro into doubt.

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The uncertainty surrounding Gilmore could cast a slight pall over the loft expectations placed on this year’s Patriots defense.

But NFL.com writer Marc Sessler believes Gilmore’s partner on the outside, J.C. Jackson, could shine bright enough to offset it.

In a Wednesday column, Sessler listed Jackson as a possible first-time Pro Bowler for the Patriots, predicting another big season for the former undrafted corner during a contract year.

“Jackson has been the subject of light trade speculation, even after inking his second-round tender. On the field, he’s operated as an under-the-radar revelation for New England, piling up 17 interceptions since 2018 alongside Pro Bowler Stephon Gilmore and the talented Jonathan Jones,” Sessler wrote. “One of the best corners around against the deep ball, this undrafted free-agent signee has doubled as money in the bank for Bill Belichick and friends. Set to hit free agency if the Pats don’t pay up, Jackson should be highly motivated to author his finest work yet.”

The fourth-year defensive back out of Maryland broke out in 2020, finishing second in the NFL with nine interceptions. His emergence gives the Patriots arguably the most dangerous cornerback tandem in the league, assuming a healthy Gilmore plays alongside him.

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That pairing might not last much longer, though, with both set to hit free agency at the end of the season and Gilmore publicly angling for a new contract.

Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio even suggested on the Greg Hill Show Wednesday that the Patriots might have to choose between Jackson and Gilmore this offseason, suggesting the younger Jackson might be the preferred option for a long-term commitment.

Some Pro Bowl-level play from Jackson in 2021 could go a long way to securing his place in New England for a few more years.

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