Special teams win hidden yardage. Attack wins games. Defense wins championships. Freshman for the New England Patriots Mark Jones can do all three.
The former Houston star hit from both cornerback points as an All-American Athletic Conference defenseman. He also returned kicks and even ran stretches as a receiver.
Yes, the tracks are running, not just covering.
Houston’s trainer Dana Holgorsen saw a cornerback mirroring any route a receiver would run inside with ease. He asked if Jones would be willing to work on the opposing side of football and immediately the transition seemed natural.
“If Marcus wasn’t as valuable to our defense as he is, he probably would have taken even more offensive snaps,” Houston defensive coordinator Doug Belk said on the Next Pats podcast. patriots Corner. “But we wanted to be in control of his body throughout the season. He actually wanted to play more offense than we wanted him to.”
Jones, the Patriots’ third-round pick, has a chance to be an integral part of the team’s development this season. New England Bill Belichick He probably isn’t keen on making him a two-way player, but who says he wouldn’t be open to just trying it on offense for reps?
Slot Receiver and New England, unlike most teams, have a connection. It started with Wes Welker and soon translated into Julian Edelman. Danny Amendola also carved out a role during his five seasons at Foxboro, while Jakobi Meyers hopes to do the same now on a new contract.
Belk believed Holgersen wanted to see Jones develop his hand-eye coordination, footwork and braking ability on the route. Therefore, upon his arrival from Troy in 2020, he first began working on the offensive.
No one thought Jones would become a passing offense option during the team’s 12-win season in 2021. The 5-8, 178-pound nickel defenseman recorded 10 catches for 109 yards and even scored a touchdown en route to the Cougars’ best result since 2011.
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Make no mistake about his defense skills. Belk has coached talent like Minkah Fitzpatrick and Marlon Humphrey in Alabama. Coming out of high school, Jones says he’s more NFL-ready than any Pro Bowl defenseman. Had it not been for the smaller frame, he probably would have been a first-round pick.
The results speak for themselves. Jones won the Paul Hornung Award for the nation’s most versatile player last year by recording five interceptions and breaking 13 passes. He was also arguably the nation’s best return man, averaging 14.4 yards per punt return and 34 yards per kickoff return.
He also had two punts returned for touchdowns and two kickoff scores.
The versatility aspect makes Jones New England the most intriguing rookie heading into the summer. The Patriots are looking for stability on the wing to replace All-Pro JC Jackson. Although smaller cornerbacks have been successful in Belichick’s man system, 5-8 likely limits Jones among the pros.
Jonathan Jones currently controls the slot for New England but he is entering a contract year. Would Belichick be willing to take him to the limit? Or is Big Game Bill thinking ahead and ready to put Marcus Jones on offense?
Adding it to this side of the ball gives Mac Jones another option in the passing game. However, there’s more to it than that when it comes to getting the best out of Marcus Jones. It’s a season that allows him to learn more about receiver position and route building at the highest peak.
If Jonathan Jones seeks a new deal next season, perhaps Marcus Jones will be seen as the stronger option. The reason? His footwork and timing worked receiver drills like a beginner.
Belk could see how it would work. He could also see where Belichick decides to keep Jones on offense by drawing a Devin Hester 2.0 when he was drafted by the Bears from Miami.
“He’s so good with the ball,” Belk said. He’s even more difficult to fight than most of the attacking players we play weekly based on his directional changes, balance and body control. Normally no guy ever attacks him.”