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Mr. Do-It-All: What Marcus Jones Brings To Patriots Defense

A physical cornerback with speed, Houston cornerback Marcus Jones could be a difference-maker for the Patriots.

The more the merrier for Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots. Now, that doesn't always mean players can carve out certain niches to be effective at the start of the their careers. 

Sometimes it mean playing a multitude of roles. That was likely the thought process in the selection of Houston cornerback Marcus Jones. 

Jones, the No. 85 pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, is more than just a nickel defender. He's worked the boundary during his time in college. He's shined in the slot. Oh, and have you watched him on special teams? 

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Turn on the tape. That's where Jones will likely make an impact the second he takes the field in Foxboro. 

"He's been on both sides of the ball," Patriots director of player personnel Matt Groh said Friday. "Primarily corner. Inside. Outside. Even with his playmaking ability, trying to get the ball in his hands."

Jones does a bit of everything on defense. He's a willing tackler, recording five tackles for loss in his career. He can mirror receivers and jump the route for turnovers, recording six interceptions in the past two years. 

Physically, Jones plays bigger than his 5-8, 185-pound frame. Take the AAC Championship for example when facing Cincinnati receiver Alec Pierce. Tasked to play the Bearcats' No. 1 receiver, Jones took on the 6-3 Pierce, who was held to two catches despite having seven inches over the Cougars' corner.  

"You're talking about a team in Houston -- coach [Dana] Holgerson's had really good teams there and being able to put up a lot of points -- and this guy was dynamic enough that they take one of their best players on defense and put him on offense," Groh said. "Then they put him back there on punt returns and kick returns."

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Jones' frame will likely limit him inside for New England. Currently, veteran Jonathan Jones has done well at the nickel defender, allowing J.C. Jackson and Jalen Mills to man the perimeter. 

Jonathan Jones is entering a contract season, which mean Belichick might be willing to let him walk, allowing Marcus Jones to take control. That doesn't mean the third-rounder will be limited to a rotational role as New England could see if he could fill the void left by Jackson, who signed a lucrative deal with the Los Angeles Chargers this offseason. 

Marcus Jones' real impact will come on special teams. Often compared to former All-Pro returner Devin Hester, Marcus Jones tied the NCAA record with nine career kickoff/punt return touchdowns. He also was a consensus All-American as a kick returner with two punt returns and two kickoffs for touchdowns in his final season with the Cougars. 

Patriots CB Jonathan Jones
Patriots CB Jonathan Jones
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Jones was the only player last season in college football to record a touchdown in three different – punt return, kickoff return and receiving. 

Belichick could elect to have Marcus Jones in the slot for Jonathan Jones against quicker receivers such Miami Dolphins Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle or the New York Jets' Elijah Moore. Marcus Jones proved his speed by posting a 4.38 40-time at Houston's Pro Day. 

New England put a focus on addressing speed by also adding Baylor receiver Tyquan Thornton in the second round. Thornton posted the second-fastest 40-time at the combine with a 4.29, trailing only Baylor teammate Kalon Barnes.

"Really excited to have two picks here tonight and add speed, and add speed really to all three phases of the team," Groh said. "Tyquan on offense and Marcus on defense and special teams. And we'll see what Tyquan can contribute on fourth down as well."