FOXBORO, Mass. — Cyrus Jones’ return to the New England Patriots’ lineup resembled his rookie season as a whole: flashes of brilliance offset by potentially costly miscues.
Case in point: Jones’ kick return during the fourth quarter of Sunday’s 31-24 loss to the Seattle Seahawks. The 43-yard runback was the second-longest by any Patriots player this season — but it ended in a fumble, the cornerback’s third in six games.
“I’m pretty hard on myself,” Jones said Thursday when asked about the play. “So regardless of how good the return goes, I still don’t want that negative feeling to happen. So I was pretty upset.”
The fact that teammate Nate Ebner recovered the fumble, giving the Patriots the ball near midfield, was of little consolation to Jones, whose first NFL campaign has to be viewed as a disappointment thus far.
After botching two kick returns in a Week 4 loss to the Buffalo Bills and getting himself ejected from a game the following week, Jones sat out three consecutive games as a healthy scratch. As the Patriots’ top pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, this was not the way he envisioned beginning his professional career.
“It was really tough,” Jones said of his streak of DNPs. “I’m a highly competitive person. I’ve got a lot of confidence in what I can do. So it’s tough just not being out there with your team and doing anything you can to help the team win.”
Jones played exclusively on special teams against Seattle in his return to action, but given New England’s uncertainty at cornerback behind Malcolm Butler, it would not be surprising to see him once again taking reps in the secondary in the coming weeks.
The Patriots’ second and third cornerback spots have been revolving doors this season, with Logan Ryan, Justin Coleman, Eric Rowe and Jones all factoring into the mix. Coleman, Rowe and Jones all have been inactive for at least one game this season, and Ryan has underperformed after a strong 2015.
Jones was asked if he viewed the battle for cornerback snaps as “an open competition.”
“I mean, somewhat,” he said. “I’m not really worried about it, though. I’m just trying to keep working hard and wait until my number’s called. I try not to think about what the coaches have got going on. I’m here to do a job, so that’s how I approach it.”
Part of doing that job is taking care of the football, which Jones said he never really struggled with until this season. The numbers bear that out: As Kevin Duffy of MassLive.com noted, Jones fumbled just three times in 56 returns during his junior and senior seasons at Alabama.
“I fumbled a couple of times as a freshman, but none really since then,” the second-round draft pick said. “I mean, it is what it is. It happens. It’s part of football. You’ve just got to look past it and continue to try to get better and prevent that type of stuff from happening.”
He added: “I’ve just got to focus on taking care of the ball better. It’s not really a rocket science answer. Just got to hold the ball tighter.”
So Jones will continue to focus, work and improve. Because he certainly is not satisfied with the way he’s performed thus far.
“Me being hard on myself is what got me here,” he said.
Thumbnail photo via Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports Images