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 a former second-round draft pick.
Name: Cyrus Jones
Jersey number: 41
Opening day age: 24
Size: 5’10, 195 lbs.
2017 review: Coming off a rookie season during which he only saw irregular playing time and was prone to mistakes on defense and as a returnman, Cyrus Jones and the Patriots were looking for a rebound in 2018. However, Jones was unable to finally prove why New England made him a second-round draft pick in 2016: his campaign ended in preseason due to a knee injury.
Before tearing his ACL fully and miniscus partially during the Patriots’ preseason finale, Jones saw plenty of action as a slot cornerback and kick returner: appearing in all four exhibition contests, Jones played 55.8% of defensive snaps (148 of 265) and 32.8% of special teams snaps (42 of 128). His overall performance in both areas looked encouraging when considering his bad 2016 season.
Jones looked noticeably more comfortable playing in the Patriots’ defensive backfield and registered nine tackles while usually providing solid one-on-one coverage. Furthermore, he also appeared to be much more comfortable handling the football on returns: After fumbling on five occasions in 2016, Jones did not put the football on the ground on any of his 14 kick returns and two fair catches.
Overall, Jones showed a glimpse of his return-skills before his season-ending injury. Not only was he on the receiving end of seven kickoffs and ran them back for 134 yards (19.1/return), he also returned seven punts for 71 yards at an impressive 10.1 yards per return.
2018 preview: Three years into his NFL career, Cyrus Jones already appears to be fighting for his roster life. As part of a deep cornerback group, he has to fond a way to carve out a spot behind locks and semi-locks Stephon Gilmore and Duke Dawson, and Eric Rowe and Jason McCourty, respectively. If he can come back strong from his rehab process and continues where he left off last preseason, it would not be unrealistic to see him grab that fifth spot behind them.
What should help his stock are his special teams abilities. Jones has both experience and upside as a returner of both kicks and punts and should again see plenty of training camp reps and preseason snaps in that role. If he is able to build on an encouraging 2017 in that area – also from a physical perspective –, he should be thr frontrunner to serve as New England’s primary returner.
Jones should therefore have the inside track to earn a roster spot as a rotational interior cornerback and punt returner – two positions where the Patriots have no clear-cut number one option. If he does not show improvement, though, oar at least the same level of consistency he did last year, his playing time might be in jeopardy. And so could ultimately be his spot on the Patriots’ roster.