Patriots fourth-round rookie emerging as top candidate to replace J.C. Jackson at cornerback, per report

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Losing J.C. Jackson in free agency was a big blow to the New England Patriots secondary, considering how productive he was at cornerback over the past several seasons. The Patriots found incredible value in Jackson, an undrafted free agent, and are hoping for the same in a fourth-round rookie from USC. 

Jack Jones is emerging as a contender for the starting cornerback job (per ESPN), the one Jackson vacated after he bolted for the Los Angeles Chargers. The rookie has made an impression in minicamp, challenging Jalen Mills and Terrance Mitchell for playing time opposite Malcolm Butler. 

“Jack played at USC in kind of a pro system there with Clancy [Pendergast]. He played in a pro system at Arizona State with Herm (Edwards) and Marvin (Lewis). So, he has had a lot of pro coaching,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said earlier this month. “Again, similar to Terrance (Mitchell), obviously new learning at this system and our adjustments and technique and so forth. We’ll see how it goes.”

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Jones had some off-the-field concerns on the road to the draft. One was a guilty plea to a second-degree misdemeanor charge of commercial burglary in October of 2018, stemming from Jones breaking into a Panda Express with two others. He served 45 days of house arrest with three years of informal probation for the offense. This played a role in his stock falling come April. 

There’s a lot for the Patriots to like about Jones’ game, as he allowed 33 catches on 50 targets for 410 yards and three touchdowns, with three interceptions and five pass breakups last season for Arizona State. Jones was regarded as one of the best man-cover corners in the draft, which fits in a defense like New England’s. 

“I feel like I’ve been watching Jack Jones for a while now, following his career,” said Patriots director of player personnel Matt Groh. “That’s what happens with some of these highly touted recruits. We’ve spent a lot of time with Jack to try and get comfortable and understand the different situations that he’s felt, and feel good about kind of getting to know him and understanding those situations to have a process in place to be able to add him to our program.”

Jones has done enough in minicamp to enter the conservation for the starting cornerback spot, making the Patriots secondary battle even more intriguing this summer. 

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