Chris Thompson got a shot last summer. He had played impressively in training camp and in the late stages of the first two preseason games and coach Jack Del Rio decided to put Thompson in with the big boys to see what he could do.
In this case, the big boys just happened to be Brett Favre and Robert Ferguson and the outcome was somewhat predictable. Thompson got beat on a post route for a 52-yard touchdown pass.
So began Thompson's year of learning. It's often that way for rookie cornerbacks. Now he's ready for a second chance to show what he can do, and Thompson will get that chance this Saturday night in Tampa.
"I expect to have a great game Saturday. They're going to put me in there again," Thompson said as he left the practice field following this morning's special teams workout.
Thompson, the second-year cornerback from Nicholls State, will be featured early against the Bucs this Saturday. This is his big chance; a legitimate chance to stake his claim to the starting right cornerback job.
"I think I have a pretty good shot. The best man is going to win the job. I'm in the film room, the playbook. I got my opportunity. The rest is up to me," Thompson said.
A year ago, his "chance" against Favre and the Packers was more or less a measuring stick that would expose the gap between Thompson and prime-time playing time in the NFL. He was a Division I-AA All-America, but the NFL isn't Division I-AA.
"I was pretty nervous," he recalls of the game against the Packers. "Being beaten for a touchdown was something I wasn't used to in college. It was a learning experience. I got over it."
Thompson, in fact, came to the Jaguars as a fifth-round draft choice with the reputation for never having been beaten for a touchdown in college. Welcome to the NFL, Mr. Thompson.
"He's doing some good things right now. He made a good play on the interception down the sideline," Jaguars personnel boss James Harris said of Thompson's performance against Miami last Saturday. "He can run; he has some skills."
Thompson started to come on strong in the second week of this year's training camp, joining rookie Scott Starks and veteran Kenny Wright in the competition for the starting right cornerback job. Another competitor, David Richardson, is nursing an ankle sprain that could keep him out of action until the final preseason game.
"It's too early to tell right now. You have to let these last three games play out," Harris said of the job battle.
"He's got a year in our system," defensive coordinator Mike Smith said of Thompson, a speedy cover-corner with a penchant for making interceptions. He intercepted 11 in college. "He's in the mix for that starting cornerback position," Smith added.
This Saturday's game could go a long way toward deciding Thompson's fate.