Like many cornerbacks, Jalen Ramsey has never lacked confidence.
But his play, along with cornerback A.J. Bouye’s and the rest of the secondary and linebackers, are starting to speak for itself.
No team in the NFL has intercepted more passes (10) or forced more takeaways (15) after the first five weeks of the season. Consider that that Jaguars had only seven interceptions all of last season.
Last Sunday, the Jags’ pass defense flustered Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who threw a career-high five interceptions, two returned for touchdowns, one by safety Barry Church (51 yards), the other by linebacker Telvin Smith (26 yards).
It was the first time the Jaguars (3-2), who are alone in first place in the AFC South, returned two interceptions for touchdowns in a game in their franchise history.
“For me, I’m just ready to start getting my respect,” Ramsey said. “I’m ready for A.J. to start getting his respect. I’m ready for the secondary to start getting the respect that we deserve. Four picks in the secondary. I mean we ball – that’s what it is. We are balling out there.”
And it’s not only been only the cornerbacks and safeties making plays on passes. The linebackers have played with the same purpose. They all want Pick-sixes, and more wins.
“With our linebacker corps, we feel like we can cover, we can hit you and stop the run game,” said second-year linebacker Myles Jack, the team’s leading tackler. “For all of us to come together like this, I’m very eager to see what we’re going to be like down the road. We’re kind of working with each other. Somebody can tip the ball to somebody else, but at the end of the day we all win.”
Against the Steelers, nose tackle Abry Jones reached up to a tip an errant Roethlisberger’s pass off his forearm that sailed into Smith’s hands for an interception. On Church’s pick-six, Ramsey reached up to knock away the ball from Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown’s hands.
The Jaguars have surrendered 889 total yards passing after five games, the third lowest in franchise history. They also have forced quarterbacks to have a 56.9 passer rating, the franchise’s second lowest after five games (55.0 in 1999).
Safety Tashaun Gipson leads the Jaguars with three interceptions; Ramsey, Bouye and Smith each have two.
“We have a point to prove,” Gipson said. “As a defensive back, we feel like we haven’t been given the love that we deserve. We’re consistently going out there to perform. Every guy got to the ball. There’s A.J., Jalen and Aaron (Colvin), who I think is the best slot in the game. He should be starting on somebody’s team.”
Colvin was tied for the team-lead against Pittsburgh with 10 tackles, including two for loss.
The secondary has a strong rapport with each other. They have group chats after some practices and they all occasionally go out to dinner together.
“A lot of football teams, they are best friends in the locker room but once they leave it’s like nobody knows each other,” Church said. “We keep in touch. We text each other throughout the day. It is just like a tight-knit group, I haven’t been around a secondary like that in a long time. Even in my Cowboys days. After first five games, I feel like we have each other’s back and it is a great feeling.”
Now another challenge is ahead on Sunday at EverBank Field against the Los Angeles Rams. The Rams are the fifth-best passing team in the NFL, averaging 271.2 yards a game with young quarterback Jared Goff. They have a speedster in wide receiver Sammy Watkins and running back Todd Gurley is a pass-catching threat out of the backfield.
Although Ramsey and Gipson think they are not getting the respect they deserve, Rams 31-year-old coach Sean McVay had good things to say about Jaguars’ pass defense in a conference call on Wednesday.
“I’m very concerned, I think they are playing as well as any secondary in the league,” McVay said. “When they get in just their base defense, they have two of the best corners in the league with A.J. and Jalen. Barry and Tashaun are an excellent combination at the safety spots.
“I think you look at the depth and the overall speed when guys get their hands on the ball, they catch it and I think that’s a big reason why they’ve been able to lead the league in (takeaways).”