Patriots rookie Marcus Jones was named to the 2023 Associated Press All-Pro first team as a punt returner on Friday, as the dynamic young player was finally honored for his stellar season after missing out on the Pro Bowl vote. Gunner Olszewski was the last Patriots punt returner to be named first-team All-Pro back in 2020.
Selected by the Patriots 85th overall in the third round, Jones was slowly integrated after recovering from offseason surgery on his shoulders that limited his early days in training camp. The highlight play of the season for Jones is an obvious one, as his walk-off punt return touchdown against the Jets in Week 11 gave New England a much-needed narrow 10-3 victory. It was the longest punt return of the year in the NFL.
Jones' 12.5 yards-per-return average ranked fifth in the league, but that average came on 29 total returns which placed him close to the top of the league, thus making his average stand out even more. Six times did he average over 10 yards-per-return in a game and twice did he top 20 yards-per-return, as his returns helped New England land the second-best starting field position in the NFL in 2022.
Though lauded for his return skills, Jones also made his presence felt on offense and defense, scoring a touchdown reception against the Bills, then recording a pick-six against the Bengals as the rookie scored in all three phases. For the year he played 18 offensive snaps, 370 defensive snaps and 164 special teams snaps as he was one of the team's most well-rounded contributors despite playing just four total snaps in the first two games of the season, the second of which he was inactive for.
It's a nice feather in Jones' cap and a positive end of the season for a promising rookie who should continue to be a big part of the Patriots in all three phases.
Other notable Patriots vote-getters include Matthew Judon (6th - edge), Michael Onwenu (3rd - guard), Kyle Dugger (t-12th - safety) and Matthew Slater (5th - special teams).