Bill Belichick liked what he saw from Cyrus Jones in the cornerback/return man’s first game action in nearly a year.
Jones, who tore his ACL in the New England Patriots’ 2017 preseason finale, made his return to the field last Thursday in a preseason loss to the Carolina Panthers. He handled the Patriots’ kick and punt returns during the second half (taking over for Cordarrelle Patterson) and also played 16 defensive snaps as a slot corner.
“It was good to see him on the field against Carolina,” Belichick said Monday. “He’s been out there in practice, so it’s good to see him in game action.”
Jones flashed on the opening kickoff of the third quarter, displaying some nifty footwork during a 27-yard return that ultimately was called back thanks to offsetting penalties. His other kick returns went for 20 and 18 yards, and his two attempts at punt returning yielded a fair catch and a 1-yard return.
On defense, Jones had one missed tackle and did not factor on the score sheet.
“I thought he handled the ball well in the return game, kickoffs,” Belichick said. “Didn’t have a great chance on the punt, but I thought he made a good play with what he had. There wasn’t much there.
“He made a couple guys miss on the kickoff return, handled the ball well, showed some run skills, played a little bit on defense. So hopefully, we’ll get more of that this week. He’s certainly making improvement on his way back, and we’ll see where it gets to. It was good to see him out there.”
Jones, a second-round Patriots draft pick in 2016, currently is on the fringe of the 53-man roster and might need a strong performance against the New York Giants in Thursday’s preseason finale to secure himself a spot. His best hope is for New England to keep him around to return punts while wide receiver Julian Edelman serves his four-game suspension.
Wideout Riley McCarron also is vying for that spot, and the Patriots tried Patterson — a two-time All-Pro kick returner who’d returned just one punt in his career — out there against Carolina, as well.
Poor ball security and mental errors plagued Jones during his disastrous rookie season in New England, but he showed remarkable improvement in the return game last summer before suffering his season-ending injury. He’s continued to make positive strides in that capacity this year since being activated off the physically unable to perform list late in training camp.
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images