Michael Jacquet’s rookie season has been defined by unreasonable asks.
The undrafted rookie free agent’s first NFL action came against the Cowboys’ talented receiving corps when he was called on mid-game after Darius Slay suffered an injury. He came in again for Slay against the Packers, having to cover Davante Adams during the Birds’ failed comeback attempt.
The most recent big ask for the converted receiver from Louisiana-Lafayette came Sunday, when he was the team’s No. 1 outside cornerback because of injuries to both Slay and Avonte Maddox.
Covering DeAndre Hopkins, Larry Fitzgerald, and Christian Kirk predictably didn’t yield gaudy coverage stats for Jacquet. The 23-year-old was targeted 10 times and gave up eight catches for 158 yards. But he still made plays, forcing a Hopkins fumble and getting to quarterback Kyler Murray as Nickell Robey-Coleman forced and recovered another fumble.
Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz complimented Jacquet’s competitiveness during his Tuesday news conference.
“One thing about him is he is a confident player, and that means a lot at the corner position,” Schwartz said. “He doesn’t get down if he gives up a play. He knows what the score is out there, meaning he knows that you don’t pitch many shutouts on the outside part of the field. You’re going to have to battle, particularly against great players. They’re going to win some. You’re going to win some.”
It’s always good to draw praise from the guy in charge of your playing time, but it’s especially good news for Jacquet that Schwartz has particular admiration for his spirit.
Schwartz has long favored cornerbacks with a combination of mental and physical toughness (see: Jalen Mills) partly because his scheme frequently asks a lot of its cornerbacks. This season, Schwartz has employed more man coverage because of Slay’s coverage skills, putting even more stress on the team’s corners.
“I think [his toughness] has been the thing I’ve been most impressed by him,” Schwartz said. “He hasn’t been shy about contact, getting into the mix, and has played with a lot of spirit. I’ve really been proud of him.”
Schwartz said Jacquet was one of the most negatively impacted corners by the coronavirus-altered offseason and the cancellation of preseason games. The 23-year-old played quarterback in high school and was a receiver for his first two seasons with the Ragin’ Cajuns before switching to corner.
At 6-foot-2, 200 pounds, Jacquet could be the team’s No. 2 outside corner once Slay clears concussion protocol. The Eagles went slot-corner heavy on the 53-man roster this season, which could be more good news for Jacquet going into next season as he competes for a role.
“Just like a lot of other players, the whole process we’ve gone through this year has really stunted a lot of players’ development,” Schwartz said. “But he’s gaining ground. He’s improving every day, and I was ... more impressed with the way he bounced back and the way he kept competing and the way he kept challenging as opposed to the plays that he gave up.”