FOXBORO, Mass. — The New England media has been hard on Cyrus Jones this week.
After Jones’ costly muffed punt during Monday’s win over the Baltimore Ravens, many outlets — us included — argued the Patriots should stop using the struggling rookie as their primary return man. Jones was New England’s top draft pick this past spring, but he’s yet to live up to that billing, fumbling five times in nine games.
Matthew Slater hopes the first-year pro isn’t reading his press clippings.
“Not to read and listen to what you guys write and say and just worry about trying to get better and improve,” the Patriots special teams captain said Thursday when asked what advice he’d give Jones. “He’s part of this team. We have a lot of faith in him and everyone else on this football team. We’re going to stay positive moving forward, and we’re all trying to get better.”
While the Patriots have several potential kick returners on their roster, they’re thin at punt returner. If coach Bill Belichick does decide to strip Jones of his duties, he most likely would replace him with Julian Edelman and/or Patrick Chung.
Chung and Edelman both returned punts Monday night. Danny Amendola, the Patriots’ usual punt returner, is expected to miss the rest of the regular season with an ankle injury.
“Coach creates depth at every position,” Slater said. “That’s something that he believes in, and our coaching staff does a great job of getting a lot of guys ready. So everybody who’s worked in that capacity will go out and try to have a good week of preparation, and we’ll see who’s back there and who’s doing what (on Sunday). But that’s not up to us. That’s up to Coach.”
Monday’s game was a mixed bag for the Patriots’ special teams. New England blocked a field goal and downed two punts near the Ravens’ goal line, but Jones and Slater both lost fumbles on returns. Baltimore turned those two turnovers into 14 points.
“It’s not perfect,” Slater said. “Obviously, we need to improve. My son could figure that out, and he’s 1 year old. We need to get better at that. But we did enough to win the football game, and I think ultimately, that’s why we’re all here.”
Thumbnail photo via Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports Images