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Terps in the NFL: J.C. Jackson is Mr. Interception

Here’s how former Terps performed in Week 9 of the 2021 NFL season.

NFL: New England Patriots at Carolina Panthers Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Former Maryland cornerback J.C. Jackson is a ball hawk. According to Merriam-Webster, a ball hawk is a player who is skillful in taking the ball away from opponents. There is no one in the entire National Football League that is better at doing just that than Jackson since he came into the league in 2018.

This week, Jackson added to his interception total. He registered two tackles against the Carolina Panthers and recorded two interceptions while returning one of them to the end zone for a touchdown, which marked his first career pick-six.

Carolina quarterback Sam Darnold overthrew his intended target and Jackson was in the right position to intercept the pass. He caught the ball around New England’s own 10-yard line and without being touched he returned it almost 90 yards to the endzone for a touchdown.

Throughout the game, Jackson had been tasked with matching up against former Maryand wide receiver D.J. Moore. The two were teammates in College Park for the 2016 and 2017 seasons and they came into the NFL together after the 2018 draft — Moore a first-round pick and Jackson an undrafted free agent.

At the beginning of the fourth quarter, the Panthers were in the red zone and Darnold tried to loft a pass into the end zone for Moore. Jackson was covering his former teammate and stepped in front of the pass to intercept it in the endzone for his second takeaway of the game. Moore tried to softly wrestle the ball out of Jackson’s hands after the pick.

Additionally, Jackson deflected two passes from Darnold. The former Terp has 12 pass deflections so far this season, in just nine games. He totaled a career-high 14 pass deflections in 16 games throughout the entire 2020 season.

Jackson provided a ton of production on Sunday, while only playing in 64% of the defensive snaps in New England’s 24-6 win.

The fourth-year cornerback has recorded the most interceptions in the entire NFL since he joined the league in 2018. He has 22 interceptions, in 54 career games, over that span, 19 since 2019 and 14 since the start of last season, all of which are the most in the NFL. His five interceptions in 2021 are tied for the second-most of his career in a single season, but he recorded five in 16 games in 2019. He has five picks in nine games in 2021. He set his career-high last season with nine interceptions in 16 games and is just four picks shy from tying that mark through nine games.

Jackson continues to intercept passes at a pace that is more than any other player. New England will travel to Cleveland next week to take on the Browns.

Other Performers

  • New York Jets running back Ty Johnson scored a touchdown through the air for the second straight game this week. On Thursday Night Football, the third-year running back totaled four carries for 21 yards and two catches for 40 yards and a receiving touchdown, the second of his career and of the last two weeks. Johnson lost a fumble for just the second time in his career this week but shined again as a receiving back. Over the last three weeks, he’s recorded 13 receptions on 16 targets for 176 yards and two receiving touchdowns. Johnson has appeared in every game this season, with one star, and the Jets will host Stefon Diggs and the Buffalo Bills next Sunday.
  • Las Vegas Raiders defensive lineman Yannick Ngakoue made his eighth straight start on Sunday and posted two tackles, one tackle for loss, two quarterback hits and two sacks. One of his sacks was a strip-sack, as he forced New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones to fumble late in the first quarter. He recorded two total sacks for the second straight game and now has six total on the season, which is tied for the 11th-most in the NFL. He produced for the Raiders in 38 defensive snaps on Sunday, which was good for almost 70% of the team’s defensive snaps. Ngakoue, who has always been known as a player who can rush the quarterback, has recorded two quarterback hits in each of the last five games for Las Vegas, as he continues to be a threat to get to the opposing team’s slinger every time he steps on the field.
  • Raiders defensive lineman Quinton Jefferson also made his eighth straight start of the season. He totaled four tackles in 31 defensive snaps on Sunday against the Giants. Jefferson has been solid upfront for the Raiders all season long and will look to continue his success against division rival Kansas City next week.
  • Buffalo Bills star wide receiver Stefon Diggs was productive on Sunday, although the Bills only put up six points on the scoreboard in a 9-6 loss to Jacksonville. Diggs hauled in six receptions for 85 yards on eight targets. It was just the third time this season he’s recorded at least 85 receiving yards in a game, but the seventh time he’s recorded at least 60 receiving yards. He ended his two-game streak of catching a touchdown but was still productive in terms of yardage and catching. Diggs will face the Jets’ depleted defense next week as the Bills will look to bounce back.
  • Green Bay Packers safety Darnell Savage Jr. made his ninth start of the season on Sunday against Kansas City and despite the loss, he helped the defense hold its own for the most part. Savage recorded three total tackles, one tackle for loss and a season-high two pass deflections while playing in 100% of the defensive snaps for the third straight week and seventh time in the last eight games. Savage is now one tackle for loss away from tying his career-high for a single season. He’s been one of the most consistent players on defense for Green Bay this season.
  • Carolina Panthers linebacker Jermaine Carter Jr. made his ninth start of the season on Sunday and made six tackles. He played in 77% of the Panthers’ defensive snaps and six total snaps on special teams. His six tackles are the third-most that he’s had in a game this season, as he continues to have the best year of his career. Carter has recorded multiple tackles in all but one contest this season.
  • Panthers wideout D.J. Moore totaled three receptions for 32 yards on seven targets and had a season-high two rushing attempts for season-high 14 yards. This was Moore’s least productive receiving game this season, as he was shadowed by Jackson. Three receptions are the lowest number of catches he’s had in a game and 32 yards is the least amount of receiving yards Moore has had in a game this year. Moore and the Panthers are looking to bounce back next week against the NFL-leading Arizona Cardinals in Glendale.
  • Los Angeles Rams safety Antoine Brooks Jr. made his second appearance of the season this week on Sunday Night Football. He played in 85% of the Rams’ special teams snaps and recorded his first tackle of the season. Brooks is looking to continue to make enough of an impact to remain on the active roster.
  • Cleveland Browns offensive lineman Michael Dunn made an appearance in eight snaps on special teams this week. It was a season-high in special teams snaps in a single game for Dunn. He continues to be a mainstay on special teams for the Browns, while his playing time has increased of late.
  • After making his season debut last week, running back Anthony McFarland Jr. was inactive for Monday Night Football against Chicago due to a coach’s decision.
  • Linebacker Josh Woods and the Detroit Lions had a bye this week. The 0-8 Lions will travel to Pittsburgh next Sunday.
  • Tight end Tyler Mabry and the Seattle Seahawks had a bye this week. The Seahawks will travel to take on Savage and the Green Bay Packers next week.
  • Linebacker Keandre Jones was on the Cincinnati Bengals’ practice squad this week, where he’s been all season.
  • Safety Sean Davis remained on New England’s practice squad this week.
  • Offensive lineman Derwin Gray remained on the Tennessee Titans’ practice squad this week.
  • Running back Trey Edmunds was on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ practice squad this week.
  • Patriots defensive lineman Byron Cowart was designated to return by New England on Oct. 20. The Patriots have three weeks since then to activate him off the PUP or leave him there for the season. The three-week mark will expire this coming week.
  • Rams rookie running back Jake Funk has been ruled out for the remainder of the season with a hamstring injury that he suffered in Week Six.