New England Patriots

MIAMI GARDENS, FLORIDA - SEPTEMBER 11: Jonathan Jones #31 of the New England Patriots reacts after breaking up a pass intended for Tyreek Hill #10 of the Miami Dolphins during the third quarter at Hard Rock Stadium on September 11, 2022 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images)

After six successful seasons in the NFL as a slot corner, Jonathan Jones made a position change in 2022. With the team needing help on the outside following the departures of Stephon Gilmore and J.C. Jackson, Jones started playing on the boundary. The move came as a bit of a surprise as boundary cornerbacks are generally on the bigger side, while Jones stands 5-foot-10, 190 pounds.

Yet Jones held his own, and then some, on the outside. In 16 games he was targeted 86 times, allowing 46 catches (53.5 percent) with five pass breakups and four interceptions. Opposing quarterbacks had a 76.8 passer rating when targeting Jones, the 11th-lowest among qualified cornerbacks in the NFL.

  • So now the question becomes – does Jones stay on the boundary moving forward, or move back to his natural position? The Patriots addressed their boundary cornerback need in the draft by taking Christian Gonzalez in the first round, and 2022 fourth-round pick Jack Jones enters this year as a proven player. The Patriots have the flexibility to move Jones if they want, with 2022 third-round pick Marcus Jones projected as the top slot corner without him, with Myles Bryant backing him up. Jones also has the skillset for and some experience with playing deep safety, another role the Patriots need filled after Devin McCourty retired t his offseason.

    Whatever the plan is, Jones – who signed a new two-year, $19 million contract with the team this offseason – isn’t worried. Speaking with the media on Tuesday, Jones was asked if he plans on playing on the outside again this upcoming season.

    “My answer to that is I get to play football,” he said with a laugh. “Any time I get to go out there in between those lines, I love it. So I’m not really particularly worried about where I play, where I end up. I just like to be out there with my teammates.”

  • Nov 6, 2022; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots cornerback Jonathan Jones (31) is congratulated by wide receiver Matthew Slater (18) and linebacker Anfernee Jennings (58) after blocking a punt during the first half against the Indianapolis Colts at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

    Nov 6, 2022; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots cornerback Jonathan Jones (31) is congratulated by wide receiver Matthew Slater (18) and linebacker Anfernee Jennings (58) after blocking a punt during the first half against the Indianapolis Colts at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

  • Regardless of where he lines up on the field, the place the Patriots may need Jones most is in the meeting rooms and locker room. With McCourty’s retirement, the 2016 UDFA signing is now the team’s longest-tenured defensive back. Jones shared he’s already feeling some of that responsibility.

    “When we start to talk about the history and how things have been, I think a lot of guys look at me as the guy that’s kind of been around and had some experience and done a few things,” he explained. “So you begin to look around and it’s a lot of young guys and you’re like, ‘I’m not that old yet.'”

    “They [the younger players] kind of look up to you and they want answers,” Jones continued. “And the young guys coming in, they’re hungry for that.”

    Jones’ new leadership role – and to-be-determined defensive role – will hit the practice fields next week when the Patriots begin OTAs. The first of those practices will be Monday May 22, with the first session open to the media coming on Thursday.

  • Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at abarth@985TheSportsHub.com.