FOXBORO (CBS) — Since coming into the NFL, J.C. Jackson has been taking the football away from Patriots opponents at a pretty impressive clip. The New England defensive back has 27 takeaways to his name over the last four years.
He’s done that in just 57 career games, so on average, Jackson gets the ball for the Patriots offense every other game. It certainly feels like it happens a lot more frequently, especially when Jackson puts together games like Sunday afternoon.READ MORE: Patriots In A Tough Spot With J.C. Jackson Entering Free Agency
Jackson had two more takeaways during Sunday’s 36-13 thumping of the Tennessee Titans at Gillette Stadium. He was credited with his first career forced fumble in the third quarter when he punched the ball loose from Tennessee running back D’Onta Foreman, turning a huge 30-yard run by the back into nothing but disappointment for the Titans. Foreman had just rushed into New England territory in a 19-13 game when Jackson chased him down and knocked the ball out of his hands.
“See ball, get ball,” Jackson said after Sunday’s win. “[Foreman] didn’t have good ball security. As a defense we talk about creating turnovers every day. We practice punching the ball, catching picks. What you do in practice carries over to the games.”
It seems like Jackson is always around the football one way or another, and when an errant throw doesn’t reach its intended target, there is a good chance it could end up in Jackson’s hands. That was the case in the fourth quarter, when Ryan Tannehill’s pass was tipped up by veteran safety Devin McCourty and went right to Jackson in the end zone for his seventh interception of the season.
How does the ball find Jackson so much? Bill Belichick explained it better than anybody after Sunday’s win.
“You leave any trash laying around, he’s going to pick it up,” Belichick said of Jackson.READ MORE: Patriots Scouting Consultant Eliot Wolf Reportedly A Finalist For Bears GM Job
Jackson has certainly lived up to his Mr. INT nickname since joining the Patriots as an undrafted free agent in 2018. He has 24 career interceptions and now sits in ninth place on the Patriots all-time list. (Maurice Hurst is in eighth place with 27 interceptions.) Those 24 interceptions are tied with Hall of Famer Kenny Easley and Richard Sherman for the third-most by a player over his first four seasons.
Going back the last three seasons, Jackson has 23 takeaways (21 picks, two fumble recoveries), which is the most takeaways by a Patriots player in a three-year span, surpassing the 22 by Ron Hall from 1964-66 (20 interceptions and two fumble recoveries).
And just the last two seasons are even more eye-popping when it comes to Jackson’s ability to take the ball away. He has 17 interceptions over the last two years (nine in 2020, seven so far in 2021) which is the most picks in consecutive seasons for a Patriots player, surpassing the 16 that Asante Samuel came down with in 2006 and 2007.
Jackson is the first player in the NFL with at least seven picks in back-to-back seasons since Richard Sherman accomplished the feat in 2012 and 2013. That’s some pretty special company for New England’s 26-year-old playmaker, who just so happens to be hitting free agency after this season.
With each turnover comes more confidence for Jackson and the New England defense. The Patriots have an NFL-best 19 interceptions and their plus-10 turnover differential is second-best in the league behind the Indianapolis Colts (plus-12). Back when the team was just 2-4, they had a minus-three turnover differential.
“We’ve been creating turnovers every week. We talk about it in practice each week. We prepare for it. When it’s time to play, we execute and get it done,” said Jackson. “We want to keep getting better. Stay motivated. Ignore the record and the outside noise as a team. We want to stay focused on getting better each week.”MORE NEWS: Tuukka Rask Is 'Not Where He Needs To Be' For Bruins
The Patriots are doing just that, especially on the defensive side. If teams aren’t going to take care of the football, the Patriots defense is going to swipe it right from them.