If having a great story meant you would make the 53-man roster, Bennett Jackson and Cyrus Jones would be shoo-ins.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t, but making nifty interceptions certainly helps their case.
Jones, a hometown Baltimore kid who missed much of the summer with an undisclosed medical condition, notched a pick-six in Thursday night’s preseason win.
Jackson, who was drafted in 2014 and has yet to play in a regular-season game, made one of the most impressive defensive plays in Baltimore’s shutout with a nifty interception.
The defensive backs are competing for roster spots in the Ravens’ deepest and most talented position group and hoping splash plays will tip the scale in their favor.
“That’s what you play ball for, to go out there and make big plays,” Jackson said. “It’s good when your hard work pays off and you can make a play for your team. I need all the plays I can get.”
A Notre Dame product, Jackson was drafted by the New York Giants in the sixth round in 2014. He didn’t make the team out of camp, signed to the practice squad, then suffered a major knee injury while jogging in an early-season practice, which required microfracture surgery.
Jackson moved to safety the following year and was, miraculously, in position to be the team’s starter. Then he tore his ACL late in the fourth quarter of the Giants’ second preseason game.
He came back again in 2016, but the injuries were bothering him. The Giants cut him in training camp, and this time they didn’t ask him to come back.
Jackson spent more than a year out of football, just working out and waiting for somebody to give him a chance, before the Ravens signed him a few days after the 2017 season ended. A sports hernia at about this time last year ended his season once again.
“You’ve got to take life when it comes at you,” Jackson said. “I’ve been frustrated. You’re always going to be frustrated about something. You just have to take the negatives and make them positives. Whenever a bad situation comes, I just look at what’s next now.”
Jackson’s interception was just another example in his playmaking ability. Since he landed with the Ravens, he’s been a practice standout, always seemingly around the ball. But at nearly 28 years old and without any regular-season stats on his resume, it’s hard for Jackson to sell himself as an NFL playmaker.
“A lot of times people forget,” he said. “You’ve got to remind people. This is a production league. I would love to make the team. That’s the whole goal. But just work the next day. If you focus on that and continue to work toward that, good things are going to happen.”
Jones is another player making sure people don’t forget about him. A former second-round pick of the New England Patriots, Jones was thrilled to come back to his hometown Baltimore at midseason. He was a hit as their punt returner, and his 70-yard punt return touchdown against the Oakland Raiders flipped that game.
But Jones missed all of OTAs and minicamp this summer as he dealt with a medical issue that he does not want to disclose. He returned for training camp but finds himself in a crowded cornerbacks room.
Jones’ best path to the 53-man roster is as the primary punt returner, and he has a good shot at that. The more he can do at cornerback, the better, and his nice interception and return touchdown helps prove that he’s more than just a specialist. Jones said that has been a big focus this year.
“I am a football player, and I love going out there and competing with the guys,” Jones said.
“Any moment I get to put on that purple and come out and represent my city, being from here and growing up here, being a Ravens fan, it is definitely always something I will never take for granted. I cherish it every time I walk in the doors and walk on the field.”