FOXBORO, Mass. — Tyquan Thornton isn’t the only Patriots rookie who needs to add a bit of bulk to his frame as he begins his NFL career.
Like the rail-thin wideout New England traded up to select in the second round, fourth-round cornerback Jack Jones also is focused on adding weight in preparation for his rookie season.
The Patriots’ official roster lists Jones at 5-foot-11, 175 pounds, tied with fellow rookie corner Marcus Jones and wide receiver Malcolm Perry for the lightest on the team.
“Of course I know I need to gain some weight,” Jones acknowledged after Wednesday’s minicamp practice. “I’m a little small. But I try to play as big as possible.”
Jones mostly has played as an outside cornerback in the Patriots’ spring practices, and he’ll need to bulk up in order to match up with some of the bigger perimeter receivers he’d face in that role. But what he currently lacks in size, he makes up for in ball skills.
Those were on display Wednesday when Jones punched the ball out of wideout Nelson Agholor’s hands at the catch point to force a fumble and intercepted an underthrown pass from third-string quarterback Bailey Zappe. Jones also broke up a Brian Hoyer pass during Tuesday’s practice. Through two days of minicamp, he’s the only Patriots defender with multiple passes defended.
It’s been far from a perfect week for the Arizona State product, who was in coverage on multiple Agholor receptions Wednesday, including a diving 40-yard deep ball from Mac Jones. But he’s seen substantial reps with New England’s first-team defense and should contend for playing time in the team’s wide-open cornerback competition.
“I can’t control none of that,” Jones said. “That’s not a question for me. I just go out there and play my hardest. … I just play where I’m put.”
The Patriots have rotated liberally at corner this spring, with nearly every member of that position group seeing action with the top defensive unit. New England is to replace departed Pro Bowler J.C. Jackson with some combination of Jalen Mills, Malcolm Butler, Terrance Mitchell, Jack Jones and Joejuan Williams, with Jonathan Jones, Myles Bryant and Marcus Jones competing for time in the slot and Justin Bethel ideally contributing mostly on special teams.
Expect this roster battle to ratchet up in intensity once training camp opens in late July.