Earlier this week, minicamp started and minicamp ended. This means that the mandatory phase of the New England Patriots' offseason workouts is over as well – at least until training camp starts in late July. Until then, we have re-entered the quiet parts of the NFL calendar.
However, while the football world seemingly turns slower these days it does not stop. After all, by late August, each team has to start making its roster cuts. Until then, players have to secure their spots on the team; they need to do their jobs (well) or someone else will.
Over the course of the next few weeks, we will take a look at the men fighting for those spots on the 2016 New England Patriots. Today, we'll take a look at cornerback Jonathan Jones.
Name: Jonathan Jones
Jersey number: 31
Size: 5'9, 190 lbs.
2015 review: Jones' 2015 senior year was the best of his collegiate career. The 22-year old, who was a four-year starter at Auburn, finished the season with 69 tackles, 13 passes defensed and one interception in 13 games. He also forced one fumble and recovered two. Despite his shorter build, he was competitive in both the passing and the running game.
His productive season as one of the Tigers' starting outside cornerbacks earned him second team All-SEC honors, a Senior Bowl invitation and a trip to the scouting combine. But despite putting up very good numbers both during his four years at Auburn and during the combine, and despite meeting with all but three teams, Jones was not drafted in late April.
It took until one week after the draft for Jones to find a home when the Patriots, one of the three teams not to meet with him, signed the defensive back to a three-year deal with $35,000 guaranteed – tops among New England's undrafted players.
2016 preview: According to multiple media reports, Jones has looked good during OTAs and minicamp. He was competitive in coverage drills and able to use his athleticism to defend passes thrown his way. However, despite a good showing the last few weeks, he still faces an uphill climb to earn a spot on the Patriots' roster or at least the practice squad.
With Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan and Cryus Jones virtual locks to make the team, Jonathan Jones will have to fight for one of at most two backup spots. His stiffest competition will probably come from second-year players Justin Coleman and Darryl Roberts, who have both looked good last season and have the advantage of having one more year of experience in New England's system.
That doesn't mean that Jones won't be able to beat them out, though. After all, he might very well be the most physically gifted cornerback on the team. If he is able to take advantage of his athleticism once pads come on, continues to make plays like he did during spring practices, and continues to improve, then the undrafted rookie might even win the race for the number four or five cornerback spot.
Unfair or not, Malcolm Butler is the measuring stick for every undrafted cornerback. It is unrealistic to expect Jonathan Jones to make a Super Bowl-clinching play this year but it is not unrealistic to see him earn a spot on the Patriots' roster just like Butler did two years ago. All he has to do is show the coaching staff that his last few weeks were no fluke and that he is worthy of seeing more snaps.