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New England Patriots 2017 roster breakdown: #41 CB Cyrus Jones

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After a forgettable rookie year, will the former second round pick turn the corner in 2017?

With opening day still three months away and the mandatory portion of the initial wave of offseason workouts over, we have entered the more quiet parts of the NFL offseason. However, while the football world seemingly turns slower these days it does not stop.

During workouts and studying sessions, players still have a chance to lay the foundation for their spots on the team. Over the course of the next few months, we will take a look at the men fighting for them on the 2017 New England Patriots. 53 of currently 90 players will be asked to help the team defend its Super Bowl title.

Today, we’ll continue the series with the Patriots' highest draft pick of 2016.

Name: Cyrus Jones

Position: Cornerback

Jersey number: 41

Opening day age: 23

Experience: 1

Size: 5’10, 200 lbs.

2016 review: With the 60th pick of the 2016 NFL draft, the Patriots opted to select a versatile cornerback and productive punt returner out of Alabama: Cyrus Jones. Unfortunately, though, Jones failed to display the traits that made him a second round pick during his rookie campaign and struggled when put on the field.

Overall, he appeared in 10 games during his first year in the NFL but was a healthy scratch for all three of New England’s postseason contests. The deactivations did not come as a surprise: Jones was never able to see regular defensive playing time – playing only 147 of a possible 1,044 snaps (14.1%) – and was a liability on special teams.

Jones played 51 of 449 special teams snaps (11.4%) and was asked to return a total of 19 kicks; 11 punts for 46 yards (4.2 yards/return) as well as eight kicks for 180 yards (22.5 yards/return). While the numbers were not spectacular, they were solid. The same, however, can not be said for Jones’ ball security and decision making as the rookie fumbled a total of five kicks he handled, resulting in three possession changes.

He did not fare a lot better when used on defense, predominantly as a slot cornerback. Jones was targeted nine times, giving up five receptions for 84 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Furthermore, Jones also was responsible for two penalties – one of which being a disqualification (week five at the Cleveland Browns).

As a result for his struggles on both defense and special teams, New England's coaching staff essentially opted to redshirt Jones for most of the second half of the season. All in all, his first year in the NFL was forgettable. Even though it ultimately ended with a championship, Jones’ individual play was disappointing especially considering the high draft pick New England invested in him.

2017 preview: Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has often mentioned the importance of a player’s second year in the system. With the feet wet, a performance jump is the ideal and desired result for both team and player – and in Cyrus Jones’ case, it might be necessary in order for him to keep his job. After all, he faces some talented competition for both of his roles.

On defense, New England invested in three undrafted rookie cornerbacks to potentially challenge Jones for practice reps and consequently playing time. Add fellow 2016 depth options Jonathan Jones and Justin Coleman and he better display the quickness and play recognizing abilities that have made him a high draft selection. If not, despite his draft status, Jones might get lost on the depth chart.

The same has to be said for special teams. While he kept getting chances throughout the regular season, Jones did not prove himself ready for the spotlight. He will continue to get chances throughout the offseason and has to improve his handling of kicks as well as his decision making when it comes to either fielding them or letting them go. If not, proven veterans like Danny Amendola or Dion Lewis and youngsters like D.J. Foster or Austin Carr might cut into his practice reps and ultimately playing time.

Jones still has the inside track to earn a roster spot as a rotational interior cornerback – a position where New England has no clear-cut number one optin – and kick returner due to his talent and in part his draft pedigree. If he does not show improvement, though, his playing time might be in jeopardy. And even thought it would be a slight surprise, his spot on the Patriots' roster might be as well.