The rookie transition from college football to the NFL for most players is usually about gaining experience and not stepping on any toes. One name to scratch off that list is Jacksonville Jaguars prized rookie corner Jalen Ramsey, who has already ruffled some feathers less than a month into his first NFL season.
Names that have already ended up on Ramsey’s hit list: That “bad man” in Green Bay, Aaron Rodgers, and Baltimore Ravens rough riding receiver Steve Smith Sr. Whether it’s perceived as confidence or lunacy, Ramsey has gone about making a name for himself by calling out guys that ought not be called out.
Rodgers is arguably the best quarterback in pro football, and Ramsey dared him to throw the ball in his direction in his regular season debut. Things were actually fairly quiet on that side of the field in a 23-27 loss to the Packers. In other words, Ramsey did his job.
“[Rodgers] didn’t throw my way. Write that,” Ramsey told reporters after the game.
And then there was Sunday’s brush-up with Smith, one of the all-time great trash talkers in the league. Words on the field led to a bevy of verbal jabs being thrown from both sides after the game.
“When you’ve been beating the opponent that’s in front of you both physically and psychologically all day, they tend to get mad like that,” said Ramsey. “I don’t care how old he is. When you line up in front of me, you’re going to get me. If that made him angry, then he can go home and sleep on it. I don’t care. You ain’t going to try me as a man at the end of the day. It is what it is.”
And sure enough, Smith responded.
But Ramsey won’t stop talking.
It doesn’t matter who he’s lined up against or what quarterback and team his defense is facing that week. He is going to say his piece and let the chips fall. It’s a contagious form of bravado that has helped turn good defenses into elite ones. It has also turned otherwise mundane players into polarizing household names. Remember Seattle Seahawks’ Pro Bowl corner Richard Sherman’s coming out party?
The San Francisco 49ers were down 17-23 to the Seahawks with 0:31 left in the fourth quarter of the NFC Championship. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick was lined up in the gun and receiver Michael Crabtree was paired one-on-one with Sherman.
Hut, hut, hike!
With a trip to the Super Bowl on the line, Kaepernick calmly dropped back and lobbed the ball high into the corner of the end zone for Crabtree with no hesitation. Sherman, who was clearly caught out of position, managed to pull off one of the best contortionist acts the city of Seattle had ever seen and twisted his body around enough to get a hand on the ball and cause the game-clinching interception by Malcolm Smith.
“I’m the best corner in the game. When you try me with a sorry receiver like Crabtree, that’s the result you’re going to get,” Sherman yelled into FOX Sports’ Erin Andrews’ microphone after the game.
That is only one of many examples of Sherman bad-mouthing opponents. He called receiver Julian Edelman and the New England Patriots weak in Super Bowl XLIX, and he has gone after New York Jets corner Darrelle Revis for never eclipsing six interceptions in a season. Redskins tackle Trent Williams was so enraged by Sherman’s trash talk that he actually punched him after a game in 2013.
The art of trash talking is to get under the opponent’s skin, and Sherman has long been a master at it. And Ramsey might be as well. Obviously, he still has a ways to go before he can legitimately be compared with the rest of the elite corners in the league. His on-field play throughout the year will ultimately dictate how he is perceived at the position, though.
The intangibles are certainly there.
Ramsey was the No. 5 overall pick of the 2016 NFL Draft for a reason. The physical makeup and instincts of a great corner are obviously there. He is capable of reducing the effectiveness of any receiver he’s tasked with shadowing.
Maybe he won’t be the next Sherman. Then again, maybe he will be, or perhaps he’ll be even better. One thing is certain: Football fans will be watching Ramsey through a much more focused lens. He got people’s attention by opening his mouth.
Now let’s see what he can do.