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Patriots Analysis

Patriots Roster Breakdown: Comeback for All-Pro Marcus Jones



New England Patriots All-Pro return specialist and cornerback, Marcus Jones.

There are expected to be a lot of changes in the New England Patriots locker room before the 2024 season gets underway. The coaching staff has already seen significant turnover, most notably with Jerod Mayo replacing Bill Belichick as head coach. But what will the New England roster look like in the fall? Some of that will be determined by players not currently on the team. The NFL Draft and free agency will both bring new faces to Foxboro. But what about the players from 2023? Patriots Football Now will break down all potential 2024 roster players in “Patriots Roster Breakdown” before Week 1 arrives in September.

Today’s Patriots Roster Breakdown featured player is Marcus Jones.

Marcus Jones

The New England Patriots selected Marcus Jones in the third round (No. 85 overall) of the 2022 NFL Draft. Jones played college football for the Troy Trojans and Houston Cougars. He spent two seasons at each school. Jones appeared in 44 career games. He compiled 153 total tackles (111 solo). He snatched nine interceptions, including five his senior year.

Marcus Jones also made a mark as a returner in college. He returned six kickoffs and three punts for touchdowns during his collegiate career. This helped make him a consensus All-American in 2021 and winner of the Paul Hornung Award, given to “versatile, high-level performers at the college level.” His Patriots teammate Jabrill Peppers won the Paul Hornung Award in 2016.

Jones made a big splash as a rookie in 2022. On a team lacking playmakers, he became one. He led the NFL in punt return yards (362), yards per punt return (12.5), and punt return touchdowns (one). This earned him first-team All-Pro honors as a punt returner. He was also named to the NFL’s All-Rookie Team. Jones also returned 27 kickoffs for a 23.9-yard average.

Marcus Jones was so electrifying on returns that the Patriots decided to use him as a weapon on their stagnant offense. He responded with four receptions (on four targets) for 78 yards and a touchdown.

He also played in 37% of the defensive snaps. Jones recorded 39 tackles (34 solo), two interceptions, and returned one for a pick-six.

Marcus Jones was expected to retain his role of return specialist in 2023 while seeing more time as a slot corner. Unfortunately, Jones failed to solidify his role as a starting slot corner in training camp. Then he got injured in Week 2 against the Miami Dolphins and was lost for the remainder of the season. His injury was reported as a torn labrum.

Jones did not play enough in 2023 to have his Pro Football Focus grades be relevant. In 2022 he earned a 90.7 on offense, 80.2 as a returner, and 67.6 as a cornerback.

Contract Status

Marcus Jones still has two years remaining on his rookie contract with the Patriots.

Cornerback and Returner Groups

The cornerback room in New England currently consists of Christian Gonzalez, Jonathan Jones, Marcus Jones, Shaun Wade, Alex Austin, Isaiah Bolden, and Azizi Hearn.

Returners for the Patriots include Marcus Jones and Jalen Reagor. Isaiah Bolden and Antonio Gibson are others who could receive a look there as well.

Outlook for Marcus Jones

Some might forget what a bright spot on the Patriots Marcus Jones was in 2022. As a rookie, he became the first player since Deion Sanders to score a touchdown on offense, defense, and special teams in the same season. Jones moves through traffic with ease, making him elusive and tough to tackle.

As a cornerback, Jones has some work to do to prove he deserves regular snaps. The opportunity is there, as is the talent level and athleticism. But he does need to earn his snaps on defense. Christian Gonzalez and Jonathan Jones are the only two corners locked in for significant playing time at the moment. The team is likely to add to that unit further, either through free agency or the draft.

The speed and playmaking ability Marcus Jones brings to the table makes him a special player. This scribe had targeted him in the 2022 NFL Draft and was ecstatic about the selection. His return ability and his potential to be a rotational corner will undoubtedly keep him on the roster in 2024, barring any setbacks in his recovery. Marcus Jones and the New England Patriots were both snakebitten in 2023. The new season brings renewed progress for Jones to maintain his explosiveness as a returner while continuing to hone his craft as a cornerback as well.