When the Jacksonville Jaguars selected defensive back Jalen Ramsey with the No. 5 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, the franchise had high expectations for the former Seminole. But when Ramsey suffered an injury very early in the summer, expectations had to be tempered, and questions began to come out about his health and ability to perform in his first year in the league.
But after his first preseason game, many of those worries were alleviated.
Ramsey was held out of Jacksonville’s preseason opener against the New York Jets after he had surgery in May to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee, but he recovered in time to participate in Jacksonville’s training camp. As a precaution, he didn’t see any action until Jacksonville took on Tampa Bay last weekend.
Once he was in, however, Ramsey impressed coaches and fans alike. Even if he was only on the field for two whole drives.
In his limited action, Ramsey managed three tackles and was able to cover Buccaneers’ star receiver Mike Evans with proficiency. All in all, it was about as good of a debut as Ramsey could’ve asked for.
“I thought he did a good job,” Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley said after the game. “The big thing with Jalen is he’s got really, really good poise. He’s obviously a very talented athlete and he’s got good technique, but his poise at the line of scrimmage and you really trust his speed, so it allows him to play at a comfort level that he has great confidence.”
And it’s a good thing Ramsey looked as good as he did because cornerback Aaron Colvin will miss the first four games of the regular season after receiving a suspension for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy.
Not only will that force Ramsey into action early, but he’ll have to go up against some potent passing attacks as well.
Jacksonville’s first four games of the season are against the Green Bay Packers, San Diego Chargers, Baltimore Ravens , and Indianapolis Colts. That means the Jaguars will face off against pass-happy offenses led by star quarterbacks. Aaron Rodgers, Phillip Rivers, Joe Flacco, and Andrew Luck will all test Ramsey early and often in those games, and the Jaguars need him to be up for the challenge.
And when it comes to the rookie seasons of corners taken in the first round of the draft, it’s a bit of a mixed bag.
There are success stories like Kansas City’s Marcus Peters, Houston’s Kevin Johnson, Green Bay’s Damarious Randall, or Arizona’s Patrick Peterson, but there are also examples of more lackluster performances. Cleveland’s Justin Gilbert, Oakland’s D.J. Hayden, and Minnesota’s Trae Waynes all made minimal impacts as rookies. Ramsey may have even higher expectations than any of these corners did coming out of college, as he joined Peterson as the only cornerback to be taken with a top-five draft pick in the last decade.
Ramsey certainly has the potential to be as good as a Peters or Peterson, but fans need to remember he’s only human. He will make mistakes, and the learning curve is fairly steep for corners coming into the NFL. Throw in the fact that Ramsey will be expected to start immediately against experienced, dangerous passers in his first handful of games; some caution might serve Jags’ fans well.
With that being said, Ramsey has certainly looked the part in practice and in his first preseason action. Now he just has to do it when it matters.