FOXBORO, Mass. — Christian Gonzalez and his fellow rookie cornerbacks are taking the proper approach in the early days of their New England Patriots careers.
Veteran corner Jonathan Jones said the Patriots’ trio of first-year corners has been attentive and inquisitive since arriving at Gillette Stadium last week.
“It’s Day 2 of them really being in,” Jones said Tuesday. “They’ve come in, in the meetings, they’re trying to answer questions. They’re participating, and that’s a start. That’s a start. … All the guys have been in there. We’ve met them all. They’ve all just bought in — answering questions, asking questions and just trying to learn.”
The Patriots selected Gonzalez, a highly touted Oregon product, with the 17th overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft after he surprisingly slid out of the top 10. They later closed out their draft by taking Michigan State’s Ameer Speed in Round 6 and Jackson State’s Isaiah Bolden in Round 7.
The two late-rounders were accomplished special teamers in college — Speed as a coverage player, Bolden as a kick returner — and likely will need to carve out roles in the kicking game in order to stick on the 53-man roster. Gonzalez, meanwhile, will be expected to play a major role on defense and could be a Day 1 starter at outside cornerback.
New England’s first-year players participated in rookie minicamp this past weekend. Their first full-team practice is scheduled for next Monday, when organized team activities commence.
NFL veterans sometimes bristle when their team uses a high draft pick on a player at their position. But Jones said he was fully on board with the Gonzalez selection.
“We need it,” he said. “We need help. We need all the help that we can get. We’ve had a lot of transition at the position over the last few years.”
Adding Gonzalez also addressed a specific need for New England, which relied mostly on undersized cornerbacks last season and had trouble defending elite wide receivers. At a shade over 6-foot-1 and 197 pounds, Gonzalez will bring some much-needed size to that group. Speed (6-3) and Bolden (6-2) also are taller players.
Jones, who’s been with the Patriots since 2016, is the elder statesman in a cornerback room that now features five players chosen in the last two NFL drafts (Jack Jones and Marcus Jones being the two others). He wouldn’t reveal whether New England plans to play him at outside corner again this season or move him back to the slot, his primary position for most of his career. He also is a candidate to replace the retired Devin McCourty at free safety.
“My answer to that is, ‘I get to play football,’ ” Jones said, smiling.