The New England Patriots currently have the maximum of 90 players on their active roster. However, only 53 of them will be able to survive the cutdowns on September 1 and ultimately make the team. Over the next weeks, we will take a look at the players fighting for those spots to find out who has the best chances of helping the Patriots recapture the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
Today, the series continues with one of the team’s depth cornerbacks.
Name: Jonathan Jones
Position: Cornerback / Special teamer
Jersey number: 31
Opening day age: 24
Size: 5’10, 190 lbs.
2017 review: While former undrafted rookie Jonathan Jones making the Patriots’ 53-man roster during his 2016 year was a minor surprise, seeing him do the same one season later was not: By 2017, the Auburn product had already established himself as a core special teamer and rotational option in New England’s secondary. His role and impact on defense, however, grew significantly from year one to year two.
Jones appeared in all 16 of the Patriots’ regular season games as a reliable and consistent contributor no matter his usage. Defensively, he played 439 of 1,060 possible snaps (41.4%; up from 6.1% in 2016) and served as the team’s number three cornerback while Eric Rowe was dealing with a groin injury. Jones also saw regular action in the kicking game and played 64.1% of snaps (289 of 451) as a gunner and front-line blocker.
While his role as a core special teamer remained unchanged through the year, his defensive playing time decreased once Rowe was fully healthy again: Jones played only 30 defensive snaps over his final four games – and before an ankle injury late in the divisional playoff round forced the Patriots to place him on injured reserve. While his season ended on the sidelines, it still was a successful one for Jones.
As a slot cornerback, he registered a total of 37 defensive tackles as well as one interception, fumble recovery, and sack apiece. Furthermore, Jones allowed just half of the passes thrown his way to be completed for two touchdowns, while he broke up eight additional attempts into his coverage. He was even more productive on special teams and despite missing the final two games ended the year tied for third on the team with nine tackles.
2018 preview: Given his contributions on both defense and special teams as well as his modest salary cap hit of $633,334, Jones should be relatively safe when it comes to making the roster. However, it all depends on his recovery from the aforementioned season-ending ankle injury: The 24-year old was not spotted even once during offseason practices, and it would not be a shock if he started training camp on the physically unable to perform list.
If he is indeed placed on PUP, the Patriots could opt to shut him down up to halfway through the regular season and have him as an additional layer of depth to be called upon later during the year. While this appears to be the most realistic scenario at the moment, the third-year man could very well be medically cleared in one month and start practicing again with his teammates – and then likely go on to be on the 53-man squad week one.
No matter which approach will be taken by the team, it would be a slight surprise if Jones – entering the final year of his rookie free agent contract – does not find his way to the active roster at one point during the season. He is, after all, a valuable depth option at cornerback and one of New England’s core special teamers alongside Matthew Slater and Brandon King.