FOXBORO, Mass. — Matthew Slater has played with hundreds of players during his 10 seasons with the New England Patriots. So when the special teams ace calls someone one of his favorite teammates ever, it’s no small honor.
Slater bestowed that title on second-year pro Jonathan Jones after the cornerback/special teamer made several key plays in Sunday’s 21-13 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers.
“Jonathan is definitely one of my favorite teammates over the years,” Slater said. “He just comes in, doesn’t say a whole lot, works his butt off, and he’s a very, very valuable player to this team. I think you guys are starting to see that a little bit more now, but that’s what we’ve known for a long time as his teammates. So you’re happy to see a guy like that step up when his number’s called and play well. He’s done that ever since he’s gotten here. He’s more than a special teams player, and he showed that (Sunday).”
Jones’ most notable play Sunday came in the kicking game, as he and Brandon King teamed up to tackle Chargers punt returner Travis Benjamin in the end zone for the Patriots’ first special-teams safety since 1979.
But Jones also led the team with two pass breakups despite playing just 16 snaps on defense. He swatted a pass out of receiver Tyrell Williams’ hands on third-and-13 in the third quarter and recorded the first interception of his career on the game’s final play.
After playing just 64 defensive snaps as a rookie, Jones already has played 173 this season. He’s been New England’s third cornerback for the past three weeks with Stephon Gilmore (concussion/ankle) and Eric Rowe (groin) both sidelined.
“As professionals, it’s your job to be ready when your number’s called, and I think Jonathan’s taken a really professional approach,” Slater said. “He’s prepared himself to play defensively. The moment’s not too big for him when his number’s called, and I think he’s done a great job — not only (Sunday) but throughout the course of the season.”
Thumbnail photo via Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports Images