The Jaguars have one of the best — if not the best — duos at cornerback in all of football. Jalen Ramsey is widely considered the top player at the position in the NFL and his running mate, AJ Bouye, is an exceptional talent in his own right. DJ Hayden, who runs the nickel, is one of the preeminent slot corners in the league. Behind those three, Tre Herndon is next. He may have been an unheralded UDFA last year, but Herndon has starting ability.
We all knew the Jaguars' front line talent at cornerback was special, but further down the depth chart, guys are making plays — and lots of them. Quenton Meeks was expected to be the fifth cornerback to make the final 53-man roster. But his play has been lacking, while Breon Borders, Tae Hayes, and Picasso Nelson have all been thriving.
Breon Borders is a first year player out of Duke, who appeared in one game for the Jaguars last year. Throughout OTAs, training camp, and the preseason, he's been honing his craft. And it shows: Borders has made play after play, in practice, and in games. Against the Eagles on Thursday, Borders made two spectacular pass breakups. Both came on the outside in man coverage. Both times he read the quarterback correctly and undercut the route to get his hands on the ball. Borders also chipped in two tackles.
Tae Hayes plays much bigger than his five-foot-nine height would suggest. Like Borders, he's routinely made plays throughout the summer. He too picked up two passes defended against the Eagles. On one of those plays, in coverage of a receiver that had nine inches on him, Hayes nearly hauled in an interception deep down the field. He's also been willing to get his nose dirty: Hayes recorded four tackles, tied for the team lead on Thursday.
Picasso Nelson, another undersized rookie cornerback, has come on strong as of late. He hasn't earned as much playing time as Borders or Hayes, but he's made the most of the reps he's been given. Nelson picked off a pass late in the game on Thursday and chipped in a tackle.
With these three young cornerbacks surging, Quenton Meeks is in serious danger of losing his grip on the final roster spot at CB. Meeks didn't allow any big plays in coverage last night, but in his lone opportunity to make a standout play, he failed. On the second offensive play of the game for the Eagles, Meeks perfectly diagnosed a WR toss play and darted from the opposite side of the field, but once confronted with making the tackle Meeks shuttered and allowed the ball carrier to get past him to pick up the first down. If Meeks had made that play, it might have completely changed the outlook on his performance. It could've even given him a confidence boost.
As we inch toward the end of the preseason, and the looming roster cuts, the Jaguars' front office will have some difficult decisions to make across the roster. Selecting the final cornerback on the active roster will be excruciating. If I were making the call, it'd be Breon Borders. He's got the size and length that the Jaguars value at corner, and he's been the most consistent playmaker throughout the summer.
Time alone will tell how this one shakes out.
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