As the Giants sank and the Tennessee Titans soared last season, Adoree’ Jackson didn’t spend much time on what-ifs or dreams of chasing a Super Bowl ring.
Sunday marks a fresh start for all NFL teams as well as Jackson’s first game against the Titans since they surprisingly cut him in March 2021 and he landed with the Giants. Will he carry any hard feelings into the matchup, or is that just more wasted energy?
“Not at all,” Jackson said. “That’s the organization that drafted me, so I’m forever thankful and grateful for the opportunity that they gave me. It just didn’t pan out the way they wanted, and I wanted. That’s how life goes. God gives you second chances to open another door when one closes.”
As second chances go, Jackson got a good one with the Giants.
In his second season of a three-year, $39 million contract, the former first-round draft pick is an undisputed No. 1 cornerback for the first time in his six-year career. He was the NFL’s No. 15-ranked cornerback by Pro Football Focus while playing for the four-win Giants last season, but this training camp brought the expectations to replace the released James Bradberry atop the depth chart.
“I feel like I had the most fun that I’ve had in a while,” Jackson said. “It made me feel like a kid again being out there playing, running around with the guys — just doing what I love to do. I think it has more to do with just me being through what I’ve been through, overcoming some things and just learning about myself over these past couple of years going through life. That’s what I give credit to.”
The Titans saved $10.2 million against their 2021 salary cap by releasing Jackson, who was coming off a knee injury and had just two interceptions in his first 46 career games. They drafted first-round cornerback Caleb Farley and went on to earn the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs — only to be upset by the Bengals in their first game.
Instead of treating Giants-Titans as a revenge game, Jackson is excited to catch up with former teammates Kevin Byard, Amani Hooker and Derrick Henry. He joked about a jersey exchange or two after the final whistle.
“I’m not going to lie: I was shocked when they lost to the Bengals,” Jackson said. “I’ve been with those guys. I always want to root for the guys that I know. Never any hard feelings at all. They’re not in NFC, they’re in the AFC, so they can go ahead and do their thing if they wanted to.”
Jackson certainly is doing his thing. He looks like a rejuvenated ballhawk — closer to the version of himself when he had six interceptions and nine touchdowns playing offense, defense and special teams at USC — playing in new defensive coordinator Wink Martindale’s system.
“He’s been dependable,” head coach Brian Daboll. “He’s made a lot of plays on the ball. He knows our defense. He’s a good communicator. Corners, you’re kind of out there on an island a lot of the time, and I think his teammates really respect him.”
Press man-to-man coverage tends to either turn corners into stars or expose weaknesses — and the preseason suggested that opposing quarterbacks are looking at the inexperienced Giants secondary and deciding there are easier options than Jackson to challenge.
“It puts you in a position to make plays, and it’s all on you if you’re going to make them or not,” Jackson said. “It gives you an opportunity, and it’s about you capitalizing on them.”