New England Patriots: J.C. Jackson the clear X-factor in Week 6 matchup

J.C. Jackson #27 of the New England Patriots (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
J.C. Jackson #27 of the New England Patriots (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /

The New England Patriots Week 6 matchup against the Dallas Cowboys isn’t looking like a favorable one. With quarterback Dak Prescott back in tow after he sufferred a gruesome knee injury that limited him to only five games, the Cowboys have looked like a completely different team to start the season.

Their record stands at 4-1, and had it not been for some late game heroics from Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, they very well may have be a 5-0 team.

Either way, Dallas remains one of the best teams in not just the NFC, but the NFL as a whole. Prescott’s return, combined with an upstart defensive unit, has positioned Dallas to be one of the top teams in the league this season. For a Pats team that barely squeaked out a win over the lowly Houston Texans, they probably aren’t too excited to be welcoming the Cowboys into town.

We’ve seen New England play with the best of them, such as nearly pulling out a huge victory over Brady and the Bucs in Week 4. But they weren’t at their best last weekend, and they probably deserved to lose to Houston. A lowly performance like last weekend’s will not end well for the Pats against a top tier team like Dallas.

One of the reasons for the Patriots Week 5 struggles was their secondary. After locking down arguably the most potent passing attack in the league in Tampa Bay the week before, they allowed Texans third string quarterback Davis Mills to look like the second coming of Peyton Manning for most of the afternoon. Arguably the worst performance came from New England’s top corner, J.C. Jackson.

The New England Patriots were lucky to get away with such a lackluster performance last weekend, and they certainly won’t get as lucky this time around with Dallas. The secondary needs to better, and that starts with Jackson. If Jackson can step up to the plate and have a lockdown outing, the Pats may just be able to pull off an upset victory over the Cowboys this weekend.

J.C. Jackson is the New England Patriots X-factor against the Dallas Cowboys

With Stephon Gilmore now out of the picture, Jackson is New England’s clear cut number one cornerback. After a breakout 2020 season in which he nabbed nine interceptions, good for second best in the league, Jackson has struggled with consistency to start the 2021 campaign. He did a pretty good job locking up Houston’s top wideout in Brandin Cooks, but his blown coverage on David Moore’s 67 yard touchdown could have been very costly.

Jackson has held his own against some top tier wideouts this season, such as Cooks, Corey Davis, and to an extent, Mike Evans in Week 4. But he will face easily his most difficult challenge so far this season when the Cowboys roll into town.

The Cowboys have a star studded wide receiver corps led by Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb. This doesn’t even include Michael Gallup, who has been on injured reserve since Week 1, and doesn’t appear very likely to suit up for this one. Jackson will most likely be matched up against Cooper for long stretches of this game, and how he holds up in coverage will be a big factor to watch in this game.

Cooper profiles as one of the most dangerous receivers in the game. He is a superb route runner, and combines that with some of the best hands in the game. Lamb on the other hand is a bit shiftier than Cooper, and his exceptional speed may make life difficult for Jackson if he finds himself on him. Jalen Mills would probably find himself on Lamb, and his return to the field after missing last week with an ankle injury would be much welcome.

The problem here is that Jackson is coming off a pretty poor game by his standards. The whole secondary didn’t really live up to their high standards, and Jackson’s big gaffe on Moore’s touchdown pretty much summarized their day. They made things was too easy for the rookie shotcaller Mills. That isn’t going to fly against Prescott and this high-powered Cowboys offense.

The secondary needs a big bounce back performance, and it starts with Jackson as the top corner. If Jackson can successfully lock up his guy, that frees the rest of the secondary to do their job. Devin McCourty shouldn’t have to worry about Jackson getting beat by a practice squad call up like Moore, but he did last time the team took the field, and it cost them.

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Jackson locking down his matchup allows McCourty, and the rest of the secondary, to focus on other areas of the game, as they should. Jackson is now the number one cornerback, and he needs to start playing like it. The New England Patriots could leave Gilmore on one side of the field by himself and not be worried he was going to get beat every play. So far, Jackson has yet to prove as much.

Jackson’s tenure as New England’s de facto number one corner has gotten off to a bit of a rocky start, but there’s still time to turn things around. A standout performance against the Cowboys by Jackson would go a long way in silencing his critics, and may even end up helping the New England Patriots pull out an unexpected victory.