The old adage about Bill Belichick deftly replacing players a year too early rather than a year too late took a big hit when Tom Brady left and won a Super Bowl the following season. It’s hard to call Belichick prescient when his discarded all-time great quarterback is still winning at a high level and leading the NFL in passing into his mid-40s.
But when it comes to defensive backs, Belichick’s clairvoyance remains unmatched. That was apparent Sunday, when two corners — one ex-Patriot and one rookie — made two very different plays. The juxtaposition was stark.
Rapid reaction from the Patriots' stomping of the Lions
The Patriots failed to re-sign J.C. Jackson last offseason, permitting the self-proclaimed “Mr. INT” to ink a five-year, $82.5 million deal with the Chargers. At the time, it was viewed as another curious personnel decision from Belichick. The Patriots lost their best cornerback and didn’t seem to replace him.
But that was before Jack Jones took the field. The rookie came down with an interception Sunday for the second straight week, establishing himself as a true playmaker.
He’ll be making a lot less than $82.5 million over the next five years. That’s for sure.
Jackson played for the third time this season in the Chargers’ 30-28 win over the Browns, but wasn’t very representative. His lowlight came in the first quarter, when Cleveland wideout Amari Cooper cooked him for an easy touchdown.
The play was reminiscent of how Darrelle Revis performed in his forgettable second stint with the Jets. Though the star corner helped anchor the Patriots’ Super Bowl-winning defense during the 2014 season, Belichick let him walk. Then he spent the rest of his NFL career getting burned.
Jackson could be heading for a similar fate. He missed the start of the season with an ankle injury, and is clearly lacking quickness.
Jones, meanwhile, isn’t suffering from those limitations. The fourth-rounder picked off Jared Goff in the first quarter Sunday after jumping a pass route down the left side.
The previous week, Jones intercepted Aaron Rodgers and returned the ball for a pick-six. Jones is the first Patriots rookie with two interceptions in his first five games since … J.C. Jackson in 2018.
Afterwards, Jones called out Rodgers, saying it’s disrespectful to throw an out route against him.
Belichick has a penchant for replacing expensive veteran corners with young talent. Jackson, an undrafted rookie, smoothly slid into the top corner role when the Patriots traded Stephon Gilmore to the Panthers last year.
Now it looks like Jones is replacing Jackson. Next man up.