This season has been completely useless for the Jacksonville Jaguars. After blowing a two-touchdown lead to the Texans on Sunday for their ninth straight loss of the season, the Jags fired Gus Bradley, a bad coach everyone knew was bad a long time ago. Blake Bortles has rapidly regressed back to the point where he may need to re-learn how to throw a football, but he will probably open next season as the team’s starter anyway. Even in the sorry-ass AFC South, the Jags have been left behind by the Titans, their longtime roommates in the division basement, who may end up hosting a playoff game after two straight victories over the Broncos and Chiefs.
One narrative that emerged from the Jags’ game against Houston on Sunday was the reemergence of DeAndre Hopkins, who after a season of fruitlessly trying to catch balls thrown by Brock Osweiler, hauled in eight passes for 87 yards, all of them from Tom Savage. But those eight receptions came on 17 targets, good for an abysmal sub-50 percent catch rate. For that, you can mostly blame rookie cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who spent much of his afternoon draped all over Hopkins, swatting down passes and making even his successful catches extremely difficult. If you were looking for a bright spot in Jacksonville’s lost season, it leapt out from the screen at you.
Sometime after the game, the NFL’s official YouTube account published a video entitled, “Tom Savage Leads Amazing Comeback!” That is, technically, in some universe, what that video depicts, but the main thing you’ll notice is Ramsey, wearing number 20, making plays all over the field. Here he is, near halftime, completely boxing Hopkins out of a well-thrown fade pass on fourth-and-goal:
Later in the game, Savage had Hopkins in the end zone on a deep route, but Ramsey poked the ball out of the grasp of the normally sure-handed Hopkins just as he was going to the ground:
Savage threw the ball 36 times in two and a half quarters, so Ramsey was tested repeatedly while covering both Hopkins and Will Fuller V. Hopkins, obviously, made some catches, but they came sporadically and in bits—his longest reception of the game was only 16 yards.
In college at Florida State, Ramsey played all over the field, cycling between boundary and nickel cornerback spots as well as a sort of rover position that had him ranging sideline-to-sideline. On Sunday he was the total package, covering like a lockdown corner and hitting like a lumbering safety. Hopkins is one of the most physical receivers in the NFL, but as the clips above hint at, he was manhandled at times by the Ramsey, who backs down from nobody.
Here’s Ramsey squaring Hopkins up after a short catch and wrestling him down before he could cross the marker:
And here he is on another third down, smacking the snot out of Hopkins, who was forced to open up his body due to a high throw from Savage:
Ramsey finished the day with four tackles, five pass breakups, and one interception, which came on a deflection. He was, if you remember, the consensus “best player available” in last year’s draft. The Cowboys, still rolling with a patchwork secondary, selected Ezekiel Elliott ahead of him, and I bet they don’t feel too bad about that. The Jags, it would be safe to assume, don’t either.