After ESPN’s Mike Reiss noted Marcus Jones saw starting snaps with the first-team defense in team drills Monday, the trend continued during Tuesday afternoon’s practice.
The third-round pick got work with the No. 1 defense in addition to working as the starting punt returner. That pushed veteran cornerback Jonathan Jones, who normally plays in the slot, toward the outside.
The rookie Jones taking over some slots snaps against faster teams due to his exceptional twitch and speed is hardly a surprise. He’s covered receivers like Tyquan Thornton very well thus far in training camp.
But using Jonathan Jones as an outside corner is intriguing because of the apparent need at that position. The Patriots have many cornerbacks who can play in the slot but fewer, perhaps, who are well-equipped to play outside against burners at wide receiver. The elder Jones, however, specializes in covering receivers like the ultra-fast Tyreek Hill and even shadowed Thornton during the Patriots’ in-stadium practice.
Putting both Jonathan and Marcus Jones on the field would certainly add to the secondary’s speed quotient against speedy teams like the Miami Dolphins and Buffalo Bills. It also allows for the Patriots to give the rookie exposure while not kicking one of their better cornerbacks to the curb — something they can’t afford to do.
One way or another, though, Marcus Jones appears to be yet another immediate contributor as a rookie. Between him, Cole Strange and Tyquan Thornton, this year’s draft could make for two fruitful ones in a row.