Patriots’ usage of cornerbacks is raising questions that are getting few answers


Jack Jones and J.C. Jackson were not in the starting lineup on Sunday.

Jack Jones. AP Photo/Michael Dwyer
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Patriots cornerbacks coach Mike Pellegrino said Tuesday he is not concerned about images posted on social media that appear to show Jack Jones wearing a towel around his neck and sitting on the bench while other defensive players were gathered on the sideline during Sunday’s game against Washington.

“You may know, or you may not know, I’m up in the box, so I didn’t really see that,” Pellegrino said. “You could ask Jack about that, but I would say that would be an outlier.

“I’ve never seen Jack really on the bench when the defense was up. It must have been something that was up for a quick second, but I’m not going to speak on it. He can talk about it. I wouldn’t blow it out of proportion.

“It’s probably one thing that happened. If it were a consistent thing, would I be concerned? Yeah. But it’s not a consistent thing, so I wouldn’t really hang my hat on that one. That’s not the guy that I know.”

Jones and fellow cornerback J.C. Jackson were not in the starting lineup Sunday, but coach Bill Belichick told reporters after the game that the players weren’t benched, and he mentioned that they both played.

Jackson played 53 snaps, which was one more than he played the week before at Miami. However, it was fewer than the 67 snaps he played against Las Vegas and the 64 he played against Buffalo. Jackson’s season-low for snaps is 36 against New Orleans, which was his first game back with the Patriots after being acquired from the Chargers in a trade.

Jones played 30 snaps against the Commanders, his lowest total of the season. He played 45 against Miami and 36 against Buffalo after returning from injured reserve.

“Things happen,” Pellegrino said. “I just put the guys out there that I felt were ready to go in that moment. Everybody knows what they need to do to play. I’ll just kind of leave it at that. I’m not trying to create a narrative; I trust all my guys.

“They all went in and played, right? I’ve said this from, I think, Week 1. If they’re at the game, that means they’re ready, they’re prepared, and they’re ready to go into the game. I have faith in all my guys to go out there and execute the game plan and do a great job, so I really just did what I thought was best in that moment.”

Pellegrino added that Shaun Wade, who started the game at cornerback along with Jonathan Jones, had a great week of practice and earned the opportunity to start.

Where was Thornton?

Wide receiver Tyquan Thornton played 12 snaps Sunday and did not make an appearance in the second half. He has three catches for 15 yards in three games this season.

Why has it been so hard for the 2022 second-round pick to get on the field when it seems as though his speed would be a significant asset for the offense?

Injuries have been a factor, offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien said. Thornton has begun both of his seasons with the Patriots on injured reserve. He missed the first five games of this season with a shoulder injury.

“He has not played a lot of football because of injury,” O’Brien said. “And so, when you don’t play a lot of football, it’s hard.

“He’s got to continue to work, and he will. He’s a great guy, He works very, very hard. He just hasn’t had a lot of opportunities. I’m not making excuses for him, I’m just telling you. He hasn’t been on the field a lot.”

Receivers coach Ross Douglas said consistency is needed for Thornton to get more opportunities.

“He just has to continue to be consistent in everything that he does, from his releases, from his route stems at the top of the route, to catching the ball,” Douglas said. “He just has to continue to work on his entire game, and that will come with reps, that will come with having great practices, that will come with getting in the weight room.”

Dropping the ball

Sunday’s game was just the latest example of how dropped passes have stung the Patriots in key moments this season.

After extending the team’s final drive with a catch on fourth and 4, JuJu Smith-Schuster had the Patriots’ last pass of the game bounce off his hands and into those of Washington’s Jartavius Martin.

Jalen Reagor also had a drop on a deep ball that would have put the Patriots in the red zone trailing by 3 near the end of the third quarter.

Douglas and wide receivers coach Troy Brown both said there’s more the coaching staff can do to minimize the drops.

“Obviously, I’m coaching the receivers, so I will take the blame for that,” Brown said. “That’s on me. I will do a better job of getting them prepared and to play situational football better.”