Jets CB Morris Claiborne wants to be an elite cornerback, and he knows to do so, he must go toe-to-toe with the best receivers in the NFL.
He has a great chance to move up the ranks if he can shut down Falcons' best receiving option in Pro Bowler Julio Jones on Sunday. But Claiborne realizes it's going to take more than one good game to be among the top cornerbacs in the league.
"I can't rank myself nowhere right now," Claiborne told AP's Dennis Waszak Jr. "I'm not a Pro Bowler yet. Those guys are three-time, four-time Pro Bowlers. I'm working to get there, but I don't feel like I'm far behind."
Claiborne has been lined up opposite opponent's top receivers all season over the first seven games, and though he already has an interception and six passes defended, he feels he can improve.
"It's been OK," he said. "It can be a lot better. I feel like, so far, I've left a couple of plays out there that I wish I could have back. But so far, it's been solid, but it definitely can improve."
Improvement is all Claiborne has been looking forward to since he entered the league as the No. 6 overall pick by the Cowboys in 2012. Injuries have plagued his growth while in Dallas, but the Jets decided to give him a second chance this offseason. So far, his bill of health has been clean.
"The biggest thing is he's healthy," head coach Todd Bowles said. "We knew what kind of player he was. He plays hard, he plays hard every play. He's quiet out there, he does his job, he's very professional, he's good with the other cornerbacks. We like everything he's brought to us."
Bowles will certainly like him more if he can keep Jones out of the equation on Sunday. Jones is considered one of the best -- if not the best -- receiver in the NFL, and Claiborne revels at the idea of locking him down.
"You love those moments being a cornerback, to go out and guard the best receiver on the other side," he said. "You look forward to that. That's what you want every game."
"When you've got a guy of his magnitude, a guy of his size, his speed, his ability to do the things that he does on a football field, which is getting out of routes, can run the whole route tree and a guy who's a deep ball threat, it makes it hard to guard him. But, it's going to be a dogfight."
Jones hauled in his first touchdown of the season against the Patriots last week. But Claiborne isn't about to let that be the start of a hot streak for the 6-foot-3 wideout. He is looking to continue climbing his way up the ranks himself.
"When you have a top receiver in the league that comes in, you want those challenges," Claiborne said. "If you don't want those challenges, you shouldn't be playing cornerback in this league. Those are the moments you live for."
This season, Claiborne has 30 combined tackles to go along with his one interception and six passes defended.