During the 2004 NFL Draft, speedy cornerback Jacques Reeves, a Big Ten champion in the 100-meter dash out of Purdue University, had to wait until the seventh round to hear his name called by the Dallas Cowboys. Four years later,
Reeves now waits to see which NFL teams will be interested in offering him a contract as
an unrestricted free agent.
And the timing couldn't be better for the up-and-coming 25 year-old player who logged 13 starts out of 16 game appearances in 2007. Reeves was unexpectedly thrust into a starter's role, eventually playing both cornerback positions during the season as he stepped in for Terence Newman, and Anthony Henry as both were sidelined by injuries at different stages of the season.
By the end of the year, Reeves registered 57 tackles, including 50 solo efforts. He defensed 12 passes, made his first career interception and forced a fumble. The 5-foot-11, 192-pound Reeves also became just one of three former 7th-round draft picks out of the entire NFL to play in all 16 games this year.
A competitive and physical player, Reeves discussed his impending free agency status and his pro football career with me during this exclusive Scout.com interview.
Ed Thompson: This has to be an exciting, but perhaps also a nervous time for you.
Jacques Reeves: Oh yeah, it's an exciting time. But it's also a nervous time because at this point I have no clue what's going to happen. I'm anxious to see what's going on.
Thompson: Talk about the skills you possess that are going to convince teams to offer you a contract this offseason.
Reeves: I'm very fiery, I have a good motor. I always play hard every play, I don't take a play off. I'm always around the ball, I'm helpful after the pass by causing fumbles, falling on fumbles, and just being around trying to make things happen.
Jacques Reeves wraps up Chicago's Muhsin Muhammad.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Thompson: During your first three seasons, you had just one start. And in 2006 you gained more experience by playing in the nickel package. But then this year you started 13 games and even split time at different cornerback spots. That's a huge leap in one year.
Reeves: Yeah, I really needed those game-time reps. They taught me a lot of things I hadn't seen in the past in practice — how the teams adjust during the game, how the flow of the game changes. You don't get to see that as the nickelback, because you're not in as often as the starter. Being able to see those things was helpful, learning how to react to them.
Thompson: One difficulty of being the new starter at cornerback is quarterbacks are relentless at trying to pick on the new guy. You had 122 passes thrown your way this year, third-highest among all cornerbacks. Were you aware they were picking on you that much?
Reeves: No, I wasn't. I expected them to pick on me a little bit more, but I guess that's a lot (laughs).
Thompson: You held up amazingly well, because as I drilled down on your statistics, quarterbacks completed 56.6 percent of their passes against you, but for only 12.8 yards per catch and seven touchdowns allowed. Another cornerback who allowed a comparable 56.3 percent completion rate was Denver's Dre' Bly, a player in this league I think a lot of guys have respect for. He allowed 15 yards per catch and ten touchdowns, and he only had to defend 87 passes compared to your 122. I don't think fans are giving you the respect you deserve in some cases.
Reeves: [laughs] Wow, I never looked at it that way, that's interesting.
Thompson: Are you more comfortable getting up on the line and mixing it up with receivers, or do you feel you have more success off the line, keeping the receiver in front of you?
Reeves: It depends on the situation. In certain situations I like to be up in the receiver's face mixing it up. Time left in the game is a factor, it changes what I'm expecting. There are a few things I look at before making that decision of whether to get up in the receiver's face or not, but I think it makes pass coverage easier when you can get your hands on the guy at the line, and that's what I like to do.
Thompson: You finished the year with 57 tackles on defense, fifth best on the team. And you tacked on four more on special teams, but you were only charged with one broken tackle all season. Why do you think you are you so good at not letting guys slip out of your grasp?
Reeves: I keep my head up. I try to avoid stiff arms at all cost, try to keep my head up and I launch at the right time to hit him.
Thompson: You were only flagged twice this season for a total of 19 yards. That could be due to good technique on your part, but some might say it's a hesitation to play as aggressively as other guys who take more risks and get flagged more often. What's your take on that?
Reeves: I know the rules of the game and what I can't do. And I try my best not to do it. That's just what it is. I've never been one to get flagged with a bunch of penalties — ever. I know what's going on out there on the field, and I'm aware of the rules.
Thompson: Name a few of the receivers who were the toughest challenge for you this year..
Reeves: Moss — both Randy and Santana — Plaxico Burress, and Tory Holt.
Thompson: Why did you pick them?
Reeves: Plax is a big, physical receiver and has a few inches on me, which posed a different challenge than I was used to. Of course (Randy) Moss is a speedy and crafty guy. Holt is so experienced and knows the ins-and-outs of the game — especially in zone coverage — he can pick the zone apart. Those receivers posed three different challenges for me.
Jacques Reeves returns an interception against the Giants in September, 2007.
Layne Murdoch/Getty Images
Thompson: You have some playoff experience under your belt. How valuable do you think that experience is when evaluating a free agent?
Reeves: It's a totally different level than the regular season. I went to the Denver/Pittsburgh AFC playoff game a few years back before I had an opportunity to be in an NFL playoff game, and it sent chills through my body. It's a totally different atmosphere. The game goes to another level and changes speeds. I think the experience helps, because I know what to expect in the playoffs and a lot of guys don't. My first playoff game was against Seattle, and I had to get on a whole new page quickly, because the game was moving so much faster than it had been in the regular season.
Thompson: Before the 2006 season, your head coach at the time, Bill Parcells was quoted as saying, "He's going to really have to drop off the cliff before he's not here. He covers outside, and then we are working him as a safety in the nickel some. He's a very good special teams player. He's a Big Ten sprint champion. He's just a better player this year than he was last year. I don't think there is any doubt that he's going to be with us, unless something drastic happens." That's high praise for you from a guy who has a great reputation for evaluating talent. Talk about Bill Parcels and what those comments mean to you.
Reeves: Coming from Bill, they mean a lot. Bill helped me a lot coming into the league. When I needed to work on my skills a little bit — I wasn't as crafty as I needed to be and my technique wasn't where it needed to be — he helped me a lot. He stayed on me, he is an up-in-your-face kind of guy, and that's what I needed at the time. It helped me a lot.
Thompson: It's no secret Miami could use a good starter at cornerback. With both Parcells and your former Dallas secondary coach, Todd Bowles, now in Miami as well, would that be a team you'd be excited to play for?
Reeves: Yeah, basically our whole defensive coaching staff from last year is there now. And I'd love to work for Bowles, I can't say enough about him. He's a great coach, he put us in the positions we needed to be in and that allowed us to make the plays we needed to make. So that would be a good situation for me.
Thompson: What's the most valuable thing Todd Bowles has taught you?
Reeves: Continuing to work on the little things, continuing to study film. He always wanted us to know our opponent better than they knew themselves, and that helped us a lot.
Thompson: Are you drawing any interest from Tampa Bay? Or do you see them as a team you could have some opportunity with since they are likely going to need to add a cornerback through free agency or the draft?
Reeves: I played Cover-2 in the past and I'm comfortable playing in that style of defense, but I really don't know who is going to try to talk to me. I have to speak to my agent and talk to some people about that. But anybody who wants me, I'll be willing to play. I want to play football and I want to be in a position to win. Whoever wants me to play, whoever wants me on their team, I'll be willing to go.
Thompson: Have you started weighing the value to you of different factors like location, money, and playing time?
Reeves: I really, at this moment, don't have any priorities. I'm willing to play for anybody who could use me on their team. Like I said, I just want to play football and have the chance to win. Those are the two things I love to do.
Thompson: Is there anything else you want to make sure teams know about you?
Reeves: I'm a willing athlete. I'm willing to do whatever it takes to make myself better and make my team better. I show that everyday in practice and during games.
Statistics referenced in this article are provided by STATS, LLC. Copyright 2007 by STATS, LLC. Any use or distribution of such Licensed Materials without the express written consent of STATS is strictly prohibited.