(Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
I recently had the privilege of chatting with Jacksonville's second-year cornerback, Derek Cox. Being a young defensive back in the National Football League isn't easy, but Cox is more than holding his own as the Jags' starter at left CB. After starting every game as a rookie, he is well on his way to putting together another solid season, as his team vies for an AFC playoff spot. Here are the highlights of our conversation:
Q: Randy Moss is now a member of the Tennesee Titans, the AFC South – when you heard that they signed him, what was your reaction?
A: Well I played against him last year…so I’ve got some experience against him as a player. For me, it’s just another good player that I’ll get to go against each season. Hopefully things work out for him and he sticks with the team.
Q: This is now your second year in the League, so you’ve been around the block a little bit. Who is the best wide receiver you’ve faced thus far in your career?
A: I really think a wide receiver is, to be honest with you, made good by his quarterback. I don’t care if he ran the best route in the world, if the quarterback overthrows him, he’s not going to receive any credit or get any props. For me, I really feel like a receiver is complemented well by his quarterback, and there are definitely some combinations around the league that are pretty good. Right here in my division, there are some good ones with the Colts and Peyton Manning and his receiving corps. And you have the Texans where you’ve got Matt Schaub and his receiving corps with #80 and #83 (Andre Johnson and Kevin Walter), so I really feel like it’s more of a complementary thing that works hand-in-hand. Because of that, I can never really say that this guy is the guy.
Q: Speaking of Peyton Manning, you played the Indianapolis Colts in your first NFL game last year. On the opening drive, maybe Reggie Wayne got a step on you and caught a ball or two, but what was it like to cap your first NFL series by picking off Peyton Manning in the end zone?
A: It felt really good and it didn’t surprise me at all. I wasn’t too caught up in all the hoopla surrounding (playing against) Peyton Manning and his prowess on the field. When I did it (intercepting the pass), it was more about what I expected of myself, and to be honest with you, the first thought that came to my head was ‘that was easy…if the NFL is this easy then I’m really going to make a lot of money.' (laughs)
Q: So you’ve learned a little bit since then?
A: Oh yeah, the game is certainly more complex and challenging than that one play.
Q: You just played the Houston Texans and the game went down to the wire. Obviously Mike Thomas caught that amazing Hail Mary toss from David Garrard to win the game. Now you’re a defensive back…as exciting as that game was for you and the Jags, do you feel for Glover Quin (Texans CB), a little bit, since he batted that ball right into Thomas’ hands?
A: I wouldn’t say that I feel for him…I’m happy we won the game (laughs). For him, I would just say that I understand what he was doing with his decision to knock the ball down. That’s really what you’re supposed to do. You don’t try to go for the interception there because in doing that, you might tip it up and the other person will catch it. In this situation, he went to swat it down, and actually swatted it right to someone.
Q: You have been described by some TV commentators and journalists as having a “nose for the football”. Is that something that just comes naturally, or are there specific reasons that you have that nose for the ball?
A: I wouldn’t say that it’s something that came naturally. Things like that are cultivated and acquired over time by being involved in many activities that deal with tracking balls and chasing balls. I played baseball and that really gave me a foundation for tracking passes and anticipating the bounce of things, and that has carried over into playing football. Just by playing long enough, you can anticipate and have a feel for certain situations where a tipped ball may occur, and how to get yourself in a position to make a play.
Q: You are in somewhat of a similar situation, as a franchise, as you were last year (5-4 record after nine games). What’s different about the 2010 Jags versus the 2009 Jaguars’ team? Do you think you’ll finish stronger than you did last season?
A: I’ve never been one to throw out prophecy and make it be something that we have to live up to, so I never really speak about the future. Our main focus week-to-week is game preparation, and knowing that games on Sundays are won by who executes the best. We’re trying to pay as close attention to detail as possible on both sides of the ball, and practice properly and let that carry over on Sunday. Execution is going to be the key to beating any of your opponents because games in the NFL are hard to win. You have to look at every game like it’s a playoff game because of the caliber of opponents and the intensity of each game during the season.
Q: During the 2009 NFL Draft, Mel Kiper really questioned the Jaguars front office because they gave up a second round pick in the 2010 draft to move back into the third round to draft you. I don’t think he really said anything nasty about you, but in questioning the organization, he certainly wasn’t complimentary of you and your abilities. Since your ability to play at a high level was questioned from day one by Mel Kiper and other folks, is that something that motivates you each day and every week during the season and in the offseason?
A: I really don’t pay too much attention, or care about, what other people think about me. My main thing is this: Do I need motivation from other people? No. My motivation to be the best comes from my own desire and belief in myself. So what others say or think, I could care less.