JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — At some point this week, Jacksonville Jaguars coach Doug Marrone will seek out cornerback Jalen Ramsey and ask him a simple question.
“Usually, I come up to him and say, ‘Tell me about the guy you’re playing against,'” Marrone said. “He can rattle stuff off, exactly what he’s looking for and keys and tips and things of that nature.”
Marrone said he has done that every week this season, and Ramsey has always had a detailed answer.
Marrone tells that story to anyone who asks him about the Jaguars’ second-year cornerback. People seem to ask a lot because they’re curious: Is there anything behind Ramsey’s bluster? Is he more than just a freak athlete getting by on his considerable talent?
“That’s the one thing you’re able to see — the rare height, weight, speed, things of that nature, the ball skills,” Marrone said. “But what people don’t necessarily see is how hard that player works on the tape, in practice, how competitive he is in practice. He doesn’t want a ball completed on him in practice, and he’s been like that the whole time.
“Ability is never going to be the question, because you can see that on the field. It’s like, ‘Is he just a natural talent or does he work at it?’ He has both, and that’s why he can be an elite player.”
Ramsey already is. He was named first-team All-Pro last week and is one of four Jaguars defensive players selected to the Pro Bowl after establishing himself as one of the NFL’s top cover corners. He intercepted four passes and broke up 17 in the regular season and added another pass breakup and an interception in last weekend’s playoff victory over Buffalo.
According to Pro Football Focus, Ramsey allowed 48 catches for 586 yards and three touchdowns for a 63.9 passer rating. Those numbers are a little higher than those of teammate A.J. Bouye (38 catches, 435 yards, no touchdowns, six interceptions), but Ramsey has spent most of his time shadowing some of the game’s best receivers, such as DeAndre Hopkins, Antonio Brown, T.Y. Hilton, A.J. Green, Sammy Watkins and Larry Fitzgerald.
Ramsey has impressed veteran safety Barry Church with the way he studies the receivers he’s going to face each week. Church has not seen a young player have those kinds of study habits before.
“I’ve been in this league eight years and I’ve yet to see a guy that young be able to take the game like that and just be able to study each and every part,” Church said. “A lot of guys, when they come in that talented, they kind of rely on just their athletic ability to be good, but he’s got the athletic ability plus he has the smarts, so that’s a great combination.
“He’s always kind of that guy in the meeting room asking questions, saying, ‘Why are we running this coverage? How is it specifically working against this quarterback?’ He always knows the wide receiver tendencies. He breaks down the receivers like none other.”
Ramsey said he got a good base in the right way to study film and prepare during his three seasons at Florida State. It’s different as a professional because there’s so much more information to digest and dissect. It can get overwhelming if you let it, Ramsey said.
“Just as I’ve matured as a player even from last year to this year, I’ve grown in my film studies and how I try to study the game,” Ramsey said. “I don’t think it’s make-or-break [in helping someone become an elite player]. Just God-given ability and instincts and some intangibles that people have will make you an elite player regardless. Film study can help every now and then, though, but sometimes it may not help. You never know.”
Ramsey is revisiting Brown this week because the Jaguars play at Pittsburgh in an AFC divisional playoff game on Sunday. Brown caught 10 passes for 157 yards in the Jaguars’ 30-9 victory at Heinz Field on Oct. 8, the best day a receiver has had against the Jaguars all season.
“He’s an elite player,” Ramsey said of Brown, who led the NFL in receiving yards (1,533 yards). “Highly regarded by everybody, honestly, around the nation or maybe internationally. So yeah, it’s going to be a challenge. We’re going to have to be on our P’s and Q’s and try to execute the game plan as best we can.”