New England Patriots

  • In the NFL, the best cornerbacks often know that they’re the best. There’s not a lot of room to be humble and play the position at a high level, especially in the modern era when rules skew in favor of the offense. Confidence is key.

    Patriots fourth-round rookie Jack Jones isn’t in that upper echelon yet – he’s only played four NFL games – but he’s showing some of the mental traits that are common among those who are. Jones plays the position very aggressively, and on Sunday against the Packers that aggression really paid off.

    Jones stepped up in a big way with starting cornerback Jalen Mills (hamstring) ruled out right before the game. Making his first NFL start, he created two turnovers on his own, forcing and recovering a fumble on the Packers’ first offensive drive of the game, then jumping a route for a pick six right before halftime.

  • This was a big step for Jones, and it builds on what’s been a strong start to the season for him. Coming into Sunday, he’d been targeted just three times over 59 defensive snaps, allowing only one catch. This game saw him take another step, actively attacking the ball.

    It wasn’t during the game that Jones showed flashes of being a starting-caliber NFL cornerback though. After the game, he talked the talk.

    “Personally, I feel like it’s disrespectful to throw an out-route on me,” Jones said after the game when asked about his confidence defending out routes. “If you can throw the ball past me to get to the receiver, I’m no good.”

    That’s the kind of confident line NFL fans may be used to hearing from the top cornerbacks in the game. While Jones isn’t in that group yet, it’s a solid indication he has the mindset needed to get there.

    While it sounds like a bold statement to make, but one that Jones has reason to feel comfortable making. There’s little room to diminish the margin of difficulty on this one.

    Over the last decade-plus, Aaron Rodgers has been not just one of, but the toughest quarterback to intercept in the NFL. Since 2011, there are 15 quarterbacks with at least 4,000 pass attempts (Rodgers had 5,601 coming into Sunday). Rodgers is the only one of those quarterbacks to throw under 100 interceptions in that time, with his 63 followed by a significant climb to Tom Brady’s 101. In terms of percentage, he’s been intercepted on just 1.1 percent of his throws, with Brady against behind him at 1.5 percent.

    On the rare occasions Rodgers does make a mistake, it’s usually not that costly. In his entire career, Rodgers had thrown just three pick-sixes. Now, that number is four, with Jones joining rare company.

  • Jones walked the media through his forced fumble as well. For this one, he sounded a little more like a rookie.

    “Once he got around me, I tried to make sure he went back inside, but Once he got around me I tried to come back around and punch at the ball,” he said. “I didn’t get the best punch, but it was good enough to get the ball out so that’s good.”

    Jones’ teammates made note of his effort after the game as well. “For him to play as well as he did and to get that pick and force that fumble, that’s a great start to his career as a starting [defensive back],” Matthew Judon told reporters. “He just has to build on it, he just has to ride that wave.”

    As long as Mills is banged up – and not much is known publicly about his injury at this point – the Patriots will likely continue to look to Jones in an expanded role. If he can continue to develop on the pace he’s been on over the first month of the season, it would be a major development for this Patriots defense.

  • 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.