FOXBORO, Mass. — After the offseason additions of Jason McCourty, Duke Dawson, Keion Crossen and JC Jackson, New England Patriots cornerback Jonathan Jones became a forgotten man this summer.
Jones began training camp on the physically unable to perform list following a postseason foot injury and appeared in just one preseason game, playing 10 defensive snaps. But he beat out several cornerbacks, including McCourty, Dawson, Crossen, Jackson, Cyrus Jones, Ryan Lewis and Jomal Wiltz, for the Patriots’ slot cornerback role in Week 1.
“It’s great to have Jon back,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said Sunday. “Jon’s a really good football player. He has a big role for us in our substituted defenses against multiple receivers. He does a great job in the kicking game as well, as he always has. That’s where he kind of made his mark, got started, and that’s led to a lot more opportunities for defensive playtime.
“He’s taken advantage of those. He’s done a really good job for us. It’s good to have him back. I thought our secondary competed pretty well against a good group of receivers. (Bruce) Ellington, obviously (DeAndre) Hopkins, the tight ends, the backs. They split (Tyler) Ervin out, had a decent amount of empty there. They challenged us pretty good with the passing game, and obviously the quarterback with extended plays. I thought our secondary competed well and that’s what it took in this game.”
Jones, a third-year player, is still relatively new to playing the slot. He was an outside cornerback at Auburn, and he barely played defense during his rookie season. Jones had a solid stretch of games last season before Eric Rowe returned from injury and passed him on the depth chart. Now Jones is in the driver’s seat for the role all season. He mostly covered Texans slot receiver Bruce Ellington in his 37 snaps Sunday.
“Experience,” Jones said. “That’s one thing you can’t buy is experience, so game after game, I’m just going to try to keep getting better and not make the same mistakes and improve and make plays.”
Jones also made a game-changing play on special teams, when he downed Ryan Allen’s punt at the 1-yard line with less than a minute to play in the fourth quarter. The Texans were only able to get to their own 43-yard line before attempting a failed hail mary.
“It made a big difference in this game because they were out of timeouts and that added what would’ve been touchback yardage, so another 19 yards to the drive,” Belichick said. “It was a huge play. It ran about eight or nine seconds off of the clock. In the end, I think what they were hoping for, what I would be hoping for offensively is that you can get close enough offensively to throw the ball into the end zone and hope to make a play.
“The ball was far enough away from the end zone that Watson couldn’t really get it there. Had that ball gone into the end zone and they had another 19 yards, I don’t know, maybe it could’ve gotten to the end zone. It was a big play. It was a great kick. It was a great job by Jonathan. Ryan’s done a real good job for us putting the ball down tight for us.”
Thumbnail photo via Timothy T. Ludwig/USA TODAY Sports Images