New England Patriots cornerback Jonathan Jones is more than just impressive speed — he’s also exceptionally versatile when it comes to his abilities.
Jonathan Jones made a name for himself during the 2018 AFC Championship Game.
You remember that game, right? The road game against the Kansas City Chiefs, wherein the New England Patriots raced out to a shocking early lead before holding off a furious Patrick Mahomes-led rally, only to win in overtime and advance to Super Bowl 53 and their sixth Lombardi Trophy?
Ah … good memories…
Jones was pivotal in that game. With Stephon Gilmore tasked with Sammy Watkins, it was Jones — not Jason McCourty — who drew the difficult assignment of shadowing speedster Tyreek Hill, the Chiefs’ No. 1 receiver.
Nicknamed “The Cheetah,” Hill is widely-regarded as one of the fastest players in the NFL today — if not the fastest. And yet, Jones was able to keep up with Hill and hold him in check. In fact, Mahomes targeted Hill just three times in the Chiefs loss (he had one catch).
Jones is so much more than just that one great performance against Hill though.
Like J.C. Jackson, Jones is an undrafted diamond-in-the-rough Bill Belichick success story. Discovered by the master talent evaluator himself after all 32 teams passed on him in all seven rounds of the 2016 NFL Draft, Jones has filled an important and multifaceted role in New England ever since he came aboard.
Originally used primarily on special teams, Jones has found ways to get on the field over the past four seasons. He played in all 16 regular season games from 2016-2018 before missing just one regular season game last year with a groin injury.
Although he probably won’t get the same kind of attention and fanfare as some of his higher-profile running mates in the New England secondary — guys like Gilmore, the McCourty twins, and Jackson, for example — Jones should once again prove himself a key player on the Patriots defense in 2020.
Best-case scenario projection for 2020
This probably depends a bit on who you ask.
The best-case scenario for Patriots fans is that Jones continues to play up to the lofty standards he’s already set for himself the past four seasons — but doesn’t necessarily rise above them. Doing so would probably only be possible if one of New England’s top three cornerbacks struggle in 2020 — Gilmore, McCourty, or Jackson — and that obviously wouldn’t be beneficial to the team.
That said, Jones probably isn’t content just killing it as the No. 4 CB for his team, either.
The best-case scenario for Jones as a player is he forces his way into cracking the top-three at the peak of New England’s cornerback depth chart.
The Patriots are probably paying Gilmore too much money to not keep him where he is (plus, there’s no way he falls off suddenly a year after winning NFLDPOY). Jackson also looks like a bonafide star who could one day serve as New England’s No. 1 or No. 2 guy.
Of the three, McCourty’s the most vulnerable — but even he should be able to fend off Jones this offseason. Jones is very, very good … but so is McCourty.
Worst-case scenario projection for 2020
So far, Jones has been a stud and a real discovery for the Patriots over his four-year career.
As good as he’s been, though, he still needs to watch his back.
Aside from the three players above him on the New England cornerback depth chart, Jones also needs to be mindful of 2019 second-round draft pick Joejuan Williams. Williams played in just nine games as a rookie, but he’s reportedly taking on a bigger role this offseason as he studies up on playing safety.
Obviously, if Williams ends up playing some safety, it won’t necessarily preclude Jones from functioning in his usual role as a nickel cornerback.
But if Williams’ new skills earn him a forced entry to more minutes of playing time, that could easily bleed over to the cornerback side of the situation … in which case, Jones might be in trouble.