Six weeks after losing Pro Bowl cornerback J.C. Jackson in free agency, the New England Patriots invested two of their draft picks to bolster the position group. The first of those selections in the third round was spent on Houston’s Marcus Jones; the second pick in Round 4 brought Arizona State’s Jack Jones aboard.
Whereas Marcus was a limited participant in the Patriots’ mandatory minicamp, Jack saw some prominent action. At one point, the 121st selection in this year’s draft even ran with the starters, lining up at the outside cornerback spot opposite Jalen Mills.
While it remains to be seen what the future will bring for Jones, it appears he will be in the mix to earn a starting role in the post-Jackson cornerback room. A surprise given his draft status? Maybe to some, but not to his college coach.
Herm Edwards worked with Jones ever since he transferred to Arizona State from USC via Moorpark College in 2019, and knows him as well as anybody.
“It’s a good spot for him, as there will be people there to keep the thumb on him,” Edwards recently told ESPN. “I told him, ‘You’re at a place now where you have to check all the boxes.’ He’s been a handful, but he’s a good kid. Loves football. Loves competing. Once he’s in the building, on the field, he’s all about football now.”
On-field has rarely been an issue for Jones, who led the Sun Devils in interceptions and pass breakups in two of his three seasons in Tempe. His off-field history, however, contributed to him dropping down the draft board.
After showing plenty of promise during his first two years at USC, he was forced to miss spring practices for academic reasons and was later arrested for allegedly breaking into a Panda Express. Jones was eventually ruled academically ineligible for the 2018 season, left USC, and served 45 days of house arrest for commercial burglary.
He spent his time at Moorpark College focusing on his studies rather than football before reemerging at Arizona State. He had a productive career at ASU, appearing in 25 games and recording six interceptions. However, he also was suspended for one game during his 2020 season because of a practice fight.
Despite his off-field issues, Edwards is convinced that Jones can be a good player moving forward in a setting such as the one provided by the Patriots. Talent-wise, after all, there have not been any major red flags entering the draft.
“He’s a very explosive athlete. Very competitive. He has pretty good ball skills, finding and turning and locating the ball,” Edwards said.
“He has good anticipation. Sometimes his eyes get him in trouble, because he’s on a mission to intercept balls and he’ll guess a little bit. And weight-wise, you’d wish he’d be a little bit bigger. But he’s not afraid to tackle. He’ll throw his body at people.”
The Patriots will have Jones compete for a role against veterans Malcolm Butler, Terrance Mitchell, Joejuan Williams and Shaun Wade. Based on his minicamp usage he should have as good a chance as any of them to not just make the team — he is essentially a lock to do that — but to earn himself some regular playing time.