“Coach [Bill Belichick] does a great job preparing all the younger players. The veterans kind of know what to expect but coach has different ways of kind of letting those guys know what it’s going to be like and what they should expect,” said Brady on Friday when asked about easing the emotions of rookies on the eve of their inaugural playoff encounter. “There’s obviously more emotion and energy. There’s more attention but you play the game to be in these moments and have these opportunities and to give your team a chance to advance.”
Per Pro Football Focus, Jackson went into the final weekend of the regular season with a passer rating of 31.3. At the time, that was the best among all cornerbacks. New England clearly struck gold when they signed him out of the University of Maryland. Jackson started five of 13 games this season and his three interceptions is tied for second most on the team.
“Every game I felt like I got tested, but I feel like I responded pretty good,” said Jackson during a scrum in front of his locker this past Wednesday. “I feel like nobody is going to catch a pass on me. My mindset is to lock whoever I have to guard and whoever is in front of me. That’s my job … making sure he doesn’t catch the ball.”
Michel, who came from the University of Georgia, finished his rookie season with 931 yards rushing. It was the most by a Patriots rookie running back under Belichick, surpassing the 745 rushing yards by Lawrence Maroney in 2006.
“We want to do the best we can running the football because that’s what we do most of the time. To be able to do that, you’ve got to be physical and that’s just part of the game,” said Michel, who started eight of 13 games and scored six rushing touchdowns.
Jackson and Michel are part of position groups who know what it takes to get ready for a do-or-die playoff affair.
“I just feed off what they tell me and soak everything in,” said Jackson, specifically referencing All-Pro cornerback Stephon Gilmore and the McCourty twins. “It’s my first playoff game so I’m nervous, but I’m ready though. It’s a ready nervous. The Patriots are known for going to the playoffs, winning the AFC, and going to the Super Bowl. That’s just what is expected here.”
Added Michel, who can lean on a two-time Super Bowl champion in fellow tailback James White, “When the day comes, it’s all about having the right mindset. I would say the guys are excited and that’s way it should be. It’s good to be around that type of environment.”
The last time the Patriots lost a divisional round game was during the 2010 postseason. Back then, Rob Gronkowski and Devin McCourty were in the same rookie boat as Michel and Jackson are in this weekend.
“You want to make sure you’re prepared mentally and physically and you just want to make sure you’re playing your best football,” said Gronkowski.
Added McCourty, “It’s just the intensity of each play. Each play can change the game. Every guy knows there’s no tomorrow and you can just feel that. You feel the energy. Guys are really locked in and ready to go because nothing else matters.”
Sage advice from the “been there before” crowd. For rookies like Michel and Jackson, they’ve no doubt learned that there’s no such thing as having too many guiding hands at the season’s most important contest awaits the Patriots.
After a superb rookie season, undrafted defensive back J.C. Jackson (27) will get his first taste of postseason football this afternoon at Gillette Stadum.