Bill Belichick doesn't often throw the term "perfect" out there when describing a player's performance. Yet, he did so this week when recalling a couple of pass breakups by second-year cornerback Jonathan Jones during the Week 2 win over New Orleans.
Jones broke up what looked like a sure-fire touchdown pass in the first half, then what would have been a long gain down the sideline in the second half.
Adding to the degree of difficulty, Jones had his back to the ball on both occasions and had to wait until the intended receiver got his hands on the ball. Jones stayed close enough to the opponent to punch the ball loose, but not too close to draw an interference penalty.
"Those plays, you just have to keep your composure, because you can't see the ball," he explained. "You know the ball is coming. You have to play [the receiver's] hands. That's the biggest thing in those situations, not getting the pass interference [penalty] and making the pass breakup. Your main job at the end of the day is to make sure they don't catch it.
"Those are the things we practice every week. You get those reps in practice. When it only comes up a couple of times in a game, you have to be prepared for it."
Jones, the fourth man in a cornerback rotation that includes Stephon Gilmore, Malcolm Butler, and Eric Rowe, said Wednesday he wasn't surprised that the Saints targeted him a number of times.
"Anytime you come in as a backup player, you have to be prepared for them to test you," he explained. "You definitely always have to be prepared, especially going into a game and being the fourth corner. There's three guys [ahead of you] and if someone goes down, you have to be prepared. You have to prepare during the week as if you're going to play every down, because you never know."
Two other young players making an impact on defense thus far for New England are rookie defensive linemen Deatrich Wise and Adam Butler. The latter was in the starting lineup versus New Orleans and was asked what he felt the Patriots did well defensively against the Saints.
"Stopped the run. The numbers show that," he declared. New Orleans, as a team, only rushed for 81 total yards.
Meanwhile, Wise helped give the Patriots pass rush a boost coming off the bench in New Orleans. He put pressure on Saints QB Drew Brees throughout the game and recorded a sack for the second straight week when he took down Brees in the third quarter.
"It's fine with me [being a rotational player]," Wise maintained. "Like I said in the beginning of the summer, I'm just trying to do anything to help my team win. If they need me just to come in on third downs and pass rush, that's what I'll do. If it's spot play, that's what I'll do."
New England's injury report grew this week, with all the players who came up with various ailments and couldn't finish the Saints game.
However, an encouraging sign from Wednesday's practice was the participation of so many Patriots, including many of the ones who were injured this past Sunday.
Tight end Rob Gronkowski (groin), cornerback Eric Rowe (groin), and wide receiver Phillip Dorsett (left knee) all appeared in uniform on the field Wednesday when media were allowed to watch the team stretching period and first position drill period.
Meanwhile, wide receiver Danny Amendola (concussion/knee), linebacker/co-captain Dont'a Hightower (right knee), special teams co-captain Matthew Slater (hamstring), and defensive tackle Vincent Valentine (left knee) returned to practicing after being held out of the New Orleans contest and last week's practices (Valentine managed to suit up briefly last Thursday). Like the aforementioned trio, these four also took part in the entire media viewing window.
The only players held out entirely today were running back Rex Burkhead, who sustained a rib injury in New Orleans, and right tackle Marcus Cannon. A limited practice participant last week, Cannon (ankle) nonetheless played the entire game against the Saints. It's unclear if he was held out today as a precaution or if he aggravated the existing malady further.