By MARK LONG, AP Sports Writer
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey wants to cover the No. 1 receiver each opponent has to offer. He welcomes the challenge. He even requests it.
In the AFC championship game at New England on Sunday, it’s a tight end. Rob Gronkowski is considered the NFL’s best at the position, a 6-foot-6, 265-pound behemoth and a daunting matchup for nearly every defender in the league.
Not for Ramsey, who might get a chance to test his skills against the fellow All-Pro.
“He hasn’t played a corner like me before,” Ramsey said Friday.
Ramsey has held his own and then some against a handful of the most dynamic receivers in the league: DeAndre Hopkins, A.J. Green, Antonio Brown, T.Y. Hilton, Keenan Allen, Larry Fitzgerald, Doug Baldwin, Marqise Goodwin and others.
The 6-foot-1, 208-pound Ramsey has the size, speed, athleticism, instincts and body control to stay with anyone. Gronkowski would create other issues, mainly because of his strength and agility.
Asked what advantage he would have against Gronk, Ramsey replied: “Everything.”
The Jaguars certainly have faith in their trash-talking, second-year pro.
“If I had to bet on a corner to cover (Gronk), I’d put money on Jalen Ramsey for sure,” quarterback Blake 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.”
It wouldn’t be the first time a cornerback has lined up across from Gronkowski. Teams often do it when he shifts wide in hopes of getting a favorable matchup against a linebacker or safety.
Jaguars defensive coordinator Todd Wash, as expected, offered few hints about what could be in store for Gronkowski, who caught 69 passes for 1,084 yards and eight touchdowns in the regular season.
“We have to get the right guy on him in man situations and obviously know where he is at in zone coverage,” Wash said. “Nobody around the league has stopped him, so we have to have a plan. We feel very confident with our plan and we have to go in there and execute it.”
Is Ramsey covering Gronk part of the plan?
“In a basketball game, I think we would,” 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. … Jalen is a good corner and he plays against wide receivers.”
Gronk is as dangerous as any receiver in the league, and the Jaguars know it. So don’t count out seeing Ramsey across from him at some point.
“Jalen is a freak,” Jaguars veteran tight end Marcedes Lewis said. “Tall, rangy, long arms and physical and can run. 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, it can be tough.
“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. He doesn’t shy away from anything. It’d be a matchup that would be interesting.”
For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_NFL
(Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)