Tyson Campbell discuses breakout performance against Atlanta

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With No. 1 cornerback Shaquill Griffin out for Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Falcons, rookie cornerback Tyson Campbell had a big opportunity ahead of him as the Jacksonville Jaguars’ top cornerback.

Campbell, a second-round pick in the 2021 NFL draft, has been starting on the outside since the Jags traded C.J. Henderson to the Carolina Panthers after Week 3, and he’s certainly had a learning curve. At one point, he was Pro Football Focus’ lowest-graded cornerback in the league in coverage.

But he’s played much better in recent weeks, and he had his best game as a pro in the 21-14 loss to Atlanta. He had three pass breakups and an interception while holding No. 1 Atlanta receiver Russell Gage to just six catches for 62 yards and a touchdown while no other pass-catcher reached the 30-yard mark.

Campbell said on Monday that this game was the fruit of his labor on the practice field.

“Like I said, it’s just putting in the work, having faith in myself and my craft, not paying attention to the outside noise and keeping the main thing the main thing,” he said. “I think that’s part of this league. I’m learning that’s going to be ups and downs but it’s how you bounce back from it. That’s what I’ve been doing.”

Jacksonville’s defense has played a lot better in recent weeks, and a major reason for that has been the switch to implement more zone coverages. That has helped a secondary that is still lacking a true shutdown corner.

Campbell said he thinks the team is playing well in zone, though there are, of course, things to tighten up.

“I think we did pretty well but there’s always room for improvement,” he said. “As far as zone coverage, we’ve got to get better at getting to our drops and getting in our zones and making plays. But I think overall we’re improving each week, and that’s all we can ask for. I love the guys, the other 10 guys I go out and play with each week, so we’re just going to keep moving and keep getting better.”

Jacksonville doesn’t have much depth at corner, as Nevin Lawson had to start on the outside in Griffin’s absence. The Jags certainly need their biggest free-agent signing back in the fold sooner rather than later, but Campbell played very well in a big spot on Sunday.

If he continues to come along, he could be one of the players the new regime builds around defensively.