Jonathan Jones Says Improving 'Communication' Will Help Patriots' Elite Secondary Get Better
You can't get much better than the New England Patriots' secondary in 2019. The defense as a whole earned an elite 92.7 coverage grade from PFF last season. They had the most interceptions in the league (25), gave up the lowest passer-rating (67.3), allowed the fewest completions (303) and were the only team to reel in more interceptions than touchdown passes allowed (13). And this was all while running the most snaps while in Cover-0 in the NFL (67), which caused cornerbacks Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, Jason McCourty and Jonathan Jones to be in 1-on-1 coverage with no help over the top from the safeties.
But Jones thinks the secondary can still improve in 2020.
When asked how the secondary can build off their elite performance last year, Jones said during his video conference on Wednesday that individually improving is important, but communication as a unit will help them all improve.
"I think, individually, it just starts with improvement," Jones said. "I think every guy kind of goes back to some of his plays that he didn't make or that he was close to making the year before and just finding a way, whether it's mentally or physically, to get closer to making those plays. As far as it goes as a unit, communicate everything. Communication, every aspect – nothing in life is 100 percent, but that's always our goal is to be 100 percent. So, just finding those areas that we have had in the past and trying to fix those. Like I said, we have a lot of veteran leadership and a lot of guys that are up to the task of just continuing to strive for perfection."
After coming out of Auburn as an undrafted free agent in 2016, Jones has been the product of a coaching staff that has an incredible ability to develop talent of any kind in the secondary, no matter the player's draft status. Jones is part of a list that also includes Jackson and former Patriot Malcolm Butler that have come into the league unwanted by anyone in the draft and turned into some of the best the league has to offer at cornerback during their time with the Patriots.
While building off an elite season-long performance like New England's defense had in 2019 is tough no matter the schedule ahead, the Patriots' 2020 schedule will make it very difficult to replicate, let alone improve upon, last year's efforts.
New England has to face teams like the Arizona Cardinals, Kansas City Chiefs, Baltimore Ravens, Seattle Seahawks, San Francisco 49ers and Houston Texans in 2020, all of which have good quarterbacks, strong passing attacks, and some of which also have elite run games. Because of that, it's tough to imagine that the Patriots defense can muster the grades they earned last year, especially when they will have young talent filling large roles on defense now that players like Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins are no longer with the team.
"But, the whole team – I think the whole team, it starts up front, the secondary, just all working together as one group," said Jones later in the video conference. "That's what we have to start this year to get anywhere close to where we were last year. Like I said, it's a whole new year, a whole new defense, a whole new team. So, just figuring out who we are as a team and how we win best on defense is our task this year."