The past year has seen the Patriots move on from a pair of high-quality cornerbacks. So with Stephon Gilmore and J.C. Jackson gone, where will the Patriots turn at a fairly important position, especially with the likes of Tyreek Hill, Stefon Diggs, Jaylen Waddle, Gabriel Davis, and Garrett Wilson in the division?
Via Mike Reiss of ESPN.com, rookie fourth-rounder Jack Jones could be a Week One starter at cornerback for the Patriots.
Reiss points out that Jones started across from Jalen Mills during a mandatory minicamp practice. And Jones has won the endorsement of his college head coach, Herm Edwards of Arizona State.
“It’s a good spot for him [New England], as there will be people there to keep the thumb on him,” Edwards said, per Reiss. “I told him, ‘You’re at a place now where you have to check all the boxes.’ He’s been a handful, but he’s a good kid. Loves football. Loves competing. Once he’s in the building, on the field, he’s all about football now.”
“Handful” could be a bit of an understatement. Reiss explains that Jones originally went to USC. He was arrested for breaking into a restaurant in 2019. He pleaded guilty to second-degree misdemeanor commercial burglary. He left USC over academic issues, went to a junior college, and then made his way to Arizona State. In 2020, he was suspended for fighting during practice.
Contenders for playing time on the outside are Mills, Jones, Malcolm Butler, and Terrance Mitchell.
Jones is on the small side, at 5’11” and 175 pounds.
“He’s a very explosive athlete,” Edwards said. “Very competitive. He has pretty good ball skills, finding and turning and locating the ball. . . . He has good anticipation. Sometimes his eyes get him in trouble, because he’s on a mission to intercept balls and he’ll guess a little bit. And weight-wise, you’d wish he’d be a little bit bigger. But he’s not afraid to tackle. He’ll throw his body at people.”
To thrive in New England, it’s always a combination of body and brain. He’ll need to do what the coaches tell him to do. He’ll need to be able to access and implement that coaching and teaching when it’s time to perform.
Regardless, the Patriots are in the midst of a dramatic transition at a fairly important position. Two years after they had arguably the best twosome at cornerback, coach Bill Belichick needs to find a pair of players who can get it done.