Rookie Marcus Jones Emerging As Needed Weapon For Patriots

'He's gotten better every week'


Nov 7, 2022

FOXBORO, Mass. — As you probably have noticed, yards aren’t easy to come by for the Patriots’ offense these days. New England needs all the help it can get, including starting drives with good field position.

That’s where Marcus Jones has come in.

A dynamic return man in college, the rookie cornerback saw zero special teams snaps during the season opener and was inactive in Week 2. However, Jones took over as the primary kick returner in Week 3 before replacing an in-over-his-head Myles Brant on punt returns a week later.

Since then, Jones has been one of the best returners in football.

The 2022 third-round pick currently is tied for second among qualified returners with an average kick return yardage of 24.3. His 13.4 average punt return also ranks third in the league. Jones on Sunday enjoyed arguably his best game of the season, ripping off a 32-yard kick return and a 23-yard punt return in the Patriots’ 26-3 win over the Indianapolis Colts.

The performance, due in part to New England signing a left-footed punter two weeks ago to help prepare for Colts lefty Matt Haack, had Bill Belichick praising Jones after the game.

“Marcus’ improvement has come all year,” Belichick said during a postgame news conference. “A little limited in the spring, wasn’t able to do everything in the spring, still coming off of the injury from college. Actually, two of them. And then he’s just gained more and more confidence and more and more experience as we’ve gone through training camp and through the regular season.

“His ball handling, his ball security, decision-making, setting up blocks. He’s been doing that well in practice, been doing it well in other games, whether it’s kick returns, punt returns, the decision-making, fair catch, not fair catch. Knowing how well we have the gunners blocked or don’t have them blocked at times in game situations. So, he’s just really gotten better every week.”

Belichick also credited receivers coach and return expert Troy Brown for his work with Jones.

“Troy’s done a nice job with him in terms of catching the ball, ball handling, making the first guy miss, setting up blocks, ball security, decision making, reading the ball, reading the flight of the ball, spin of the ball, so forth,” Belichick said. “Troy’s done a great job with him.

“He deserves a lot of credit and Marcus has worked hard to get better every week. Same thing with kickoffs.”

None of this is to say that Jones can’t get better. You could make the case he mostly has taken what’s been blocked for him, rather than creating yards on his own. That said, his performance in college suggests we’ve only seen a glimpse of what Jones is capable of in the kicking game.

As for his role on defense, Jones has seen his workload fluctuate throughout the season. But his potential at cornerback is obvious, and the Patriots clearly believed the same when they selected him 85th overall in the 2022 NFL Draft.

Ultimately, Jones might not be a consistent, valuable contributor on defense until next season. But his needed impact on special teams already has shown up.

Thumbnail photo via Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY Sports Images
Boston Red Sox pitcher James Paxton
Previous Article

Double Down? Red Sox Face Tricky Offseason Decision With James Paxton

Indianapolis Colts head coach Frank Reich
Next Article

Colts Fire Head Coach Frank Reich After Blowout Loss To Patriots

Picked For You