FOXBORO, Mass. — New England Patriots 2016 second-round draft pick Cyrus Jones hasn’t played on defense since Week 5, but that doesn’t mean he’s treading water.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick on Friday explained how the rookie cornerback has continued to improve despite a lack of snaps on defense.
“Cyrus has worked hard. He’s worked hard,” Belichick said. “He’s had — as you know, when you’re working on the scout team, a lot of times that’s a better opportunity to develop as a player than working not on the scout team, because you’re working against our best players doing the best things they do. You’re not — you’re seeing our top players trying to run our offense, and you’re out there on the scout team trying to cover it or defend it as the case might be.
“It’s a great opportunity to improve for practice squad players or scout team players. That balances with the players who are playing, trying to execute the plays that they’re going to have to execute on Sunday to win. So, I would put him in the same category as a lot of other players in that they work very hard on the practice field to improve their individual skill and their craft. That’s a great time to do it, a great place to do it is to work against our other best players at the complimentary positions. So, he’s done that.”
Belichick named a laundry list of players who, like Jones, improved by working on the scout team early in their careers. The list included two of the Patriots’ most notable active players.
“All of them. I mean, (wide receiver Julian) Edelman, (quarterback Tom) Brady, (offensive linemen Ryan) Wendell (and) Steve Neal,” Belichick said. “Steve Neal didn’t play football. They don’t just grow on trees. There’s a process in all the guys — Dan Connolly. Many offensive linemen that weren’t even on the team for two, three years, then they — Wendell. I don’t think he was on the team for three years. He started games for us. Steve Neal, he couldn’t find the field, but he was a good football player, but it was a process. Julian is another guy. He’s played three positions that he never played in college and he hasn’t played the position he did play in college. So, you could go on and on. It would be a long, long list.”
Given the Patriots’ recent struggles at cornerback, it’s possible we see Jones take what he’s learned on the practice field and apply it to games before the season ends. That could even come Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers.
Jones has struggled this season on special teams, but it’s worth seeing what he can provide on defense.
Thumbnail photo via Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports Images