We have entered the quiet parts of the NFL offseason. Free agency and the draft are behind us, while mandatory minicamp and training camp won't start until tomorrow and late July, respectively.
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 rookie cornerback Cyrus Jones.
Name: Cyrus Jones
Jersey number: 24
Size: 5'10, 200 lbs.
2015 review: Jones finished his 2015 senior season at Alabama as one of the nation's top cornerbacks – as well as one its top punt returners: in 15 games, he returned 42 punts for 530 yards and an NCAA-leading four touchdowns.
While his return statistics were stellar, Jones' defensive numbers were not too shabby either as he finished the season with 37 tackles, four of which for loss, eight pass-breakups and two interceptions. He also forced two fumbles and recovered one.
The Crimson Tide's coaching staff used Jones in a variety of ways on defense: he played zone and press-man concepts, he played on the perimeter and in the slot. His experience – despite not playing defense until 2013 – as well as his versatility were likely key reasons why New England felt comfortable in picking Jones with the 60th overall selection of this year's draft.
2016 preview: Cyrus Jones is a lock to make the Patriots' roster given his draft status and what he brings to the table on defense and special teams. He is projected to offer quality depth behind starting cornerbacks Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan, and it would not be a surprise to see him beat out fellow depth corners for the top backup spot if he has a solid training camp and can adjust his game to the NFL's quickly.
Jones' playing time on defense will still likely be limited to nickel and dime packages his rookie season – entering the field as the fifth or sixth defensive back, depending on the situation –, but he is projected to also see extensive time in the kicking game. After all, he has the talent to take over as the team's primary punt returner from day one and subsequently some pressure off (and snaps away) from wide receivers Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola.
The 22-year old could also see time as a kick-off returner. And although he is less experienced in this area, he does have the moving skills and vision to potentially develop into a solid all-around return man. Time will tell if the coaching staff plans to develop him that way. All in all, though, Jones looks like a high-ceiling addition to the Patriots' defense and special teams.
Cyrus Jones is an intriguing draft pick, as he is a talented cornerback and punt returner. While his major contributions his rookie season might come on special teams and not on defense, he will still see some valuable snaps and gain some important experience. After all, Jones might be asked to take over a starting role in 2017.