JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- It likely won’t happen much, and it could be in only very specific situations, but don’t be surprised if Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey lines up to cover New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski in Sunday's AFC Championship Game.
Not if you listen to defensive coordinator Todd Wash, though.
“In a basketball game, I think we would [have Ramsey cover Gronkowski],” Wash said. “But Jalen is a corner, and we’re going to run our system. I think the last thing you can do is to go into a game like this and you try and reinvent the wheel. We got to where we are at as a team, not just a defense, but as a team doing what we do. We run the football, we create takeaways and we play sound defense and special teams. We’re not going to change that.
“Jalen is a good corner, and he plays against wide receivers.”
Ramsey isn’t confirming a Gronkowski matchup, either.
“I’m a corner, so I stay on the outside and do my thing, just do my part,” he said. “Whatever my role is on the defense.”
Linebackers Telvin Smith and Myles Jack and safeties Barry Church and Tashaun Gipson will have the bulk of the responsibility of containing the 6-foot-6, 265-pound Gronkowski, who leads the Patriots in catches (69), receiving yards (1,084) and receiving TDs (eight).
The Patriots move Gronkowski all over the field to create favorable matchups. He’ll line up in the slot and out wide. It’s not unprecedented for teams to move a cornerback out to cover him when he does line up wide, especially in the red zone. The Patriots are trying to get him isolated on a linebacker or safety so he can use his height and large catch radius.
That’s where the Jaguars could put Ramsey on Gronkowsk.
Asked why he would be a good matchup with Gronkowski, the uberconfident Ramsey replied: “He hasn’t played a corner like me before.”
The 6-1, 208-pound Ramsey gives up 5 inches and 57 pounds, but he’s gifted with elite athleticism, long arms and great ball skills, as well as the ability to be physical in press coverage. If it’s a situation in which Tom Brady is throwing a fade or jump ball, Ramsey is the Jaguars’ best option.
Not many players -- defensive backs or linebackers -- have had much success guarding Gronkowski. But if anyone can, it’s Ramsey, Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles said.
“If I had to bet on a corner to cover him, I’d put money on Jalen Ramsey, for sure,” Bortles said. “I’ve been impressed with everything I’ve ever seen out of him. His physical tools and, obviously, his mental toughness and what he’s able to do throughout the game and kind of getting in guys’ heads and doing different things.
“I think it’ll be awesome, and I think it’s a great challenge for him, and I think it’ll be a cool experience to watch those guys go head-to-head if they get the opportunity to.”
Jaguars tight end Marcedes Lewis said he’s eager to see what happens if Ramsey does draw Gronkowski. It’ll be a much tougher matchup for Gronkowski than many people might think, Lewis said.
“Jalen, he's a freak -- tall, rangy, long arms and physical and can run,” Lewis said. “It's tough for a tight end because a lot of us are long striders. When you get a guy disrupting stuff and punching you and messing up your stride and all of that, it can be tough.
"He's strong, and Jalen plays with a chip on his shoulder. Even if you come off the line and try to do something early, he's probably going to punch you in the mouth right back. It'd be a matchup that would be interesting.”