Leading the NFL in interceptions seems like a good way to get elected to the Pro Bowl, but the New England Patriots needed some convincing.
Despite leading the league in INTs, Patriots cornerback J.C. Jackson was initially left off the Pro Bowl ballot. That was a team decision. Every NFL is asked to submit 11 starters for the Pro Bowl ballot. The Patriots originally left Jackson off that list.
Why? Well, the team provided a very Bill Belichickian reason for that move, according to NESN.
“We listed the two cornerbacks who have started the most games at cornerback and who have the longest tenure, Jason McCourty [9 starts] and Stephon Gilmore [6 starts],” a Patriots team spokesperson told The Patriots Wire’s Henry McKenna.
“If we could list a third CB, we would have listed JC Jackson [4 starts] or Jonathan Jones [6 starts], but you [are] asked to list the 11 defensive starters.”
Instead of nominating Jackson, the team listed the two cornerbacks who have started the most games this season. Because of that, Jason McCourty and Stephon Gilmore were listed on the Pro Bowl ballot. Jackson may have six interceptions, but he has started only four games. McCourty has started nine games. Gilmore has started six.
While Jackson initially didn’t make the cut, something changed Wednesday. Jackson was added to the Pro Bowl ballot, and can currently be voted into the game.
It’s unclear whether the Patriots or the NFL decided to add Jackson to the ballot.
J.C. Jackson has played more snaps than most Patriots players
Despite starting just four games, Jackson has played the second-most snaps on the Patriots’ defense. Only McCourty has played more in 2020. Jackson may not be a starter, but the Patriots have used him in different packages, so he’s on the field quite a bit. He has also been healthy all season, which is why Jackson has played more snaps than Gilmore.
Given the way Belichick and the Patriots operate, keeping Jackson off the list initially could have been a way to keep his cost down in the future. Jackson would have far more leverage in contract negotiations if he makes the Pro Bowl. The snub could be the team’s way of making it harder for Jackson to gain that advantage.
In the end, the team may not be able to stop that from happening. After not making the cut at first, Jackson is now on the Pro Bowl ballot. His high interception total might be enough to convince fans Jackson deserves to be in the game.
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