With Marcus Jones out for the season, Patriots turn to Demario Douglas on punt returns


The All-Pro returner, who has been on injured reserve since being injured in Week 2, is done for the year.

Demario Douglas. Matthew J Lee/Globe Staff
  • Mac Jones criticism

    Dan Orlovsky explained why he thinks Mac Jones has faced unfair criticism in Patriots’ offense

  • Tom Brady was asked by Shaquille O’Neal who he sees as his NFL successor

Patriots cornerback Marcus Jones will miss the remainder of the season, according to wide receivers coach Troy Brown.

Jones left the loss against Miami in Week 2 with a shoulder injury he suffered during the second quarter. The Patriots placed him on injured reserve five days later, on Oct. 22. The injury is reported to be a torn labrum.

The 5-foot-8-inch, 188-pound cornerback earned first-team All-Pro honors as a punt returner during his rookie season last year.

With Jones out, the Patriots have given rookie receiver Demario Douglas opportunities to return punts.

“I think he’s worked his butt off doing that,” Brown said. “Hopefully he continues to improve with those duties with Marcus being out for the year now. So whatever the situation is, it’s just, you know, he can get back there and have some confidence and we have confidence in him getting back there and fielding the punts, fielding them cleanly and making good decisions.”

Jones led the league in punt-return yards with 362 on 29 attempts last year for an average of 12.5 per return. His game-winning score against the Jets was one of just three punt returns for touchdowns in the entire league.

Jabrill Peppers, who won the Big Ten’s Rodgers-Dwight Return Specialist of the Year award at Michigan in 2016, has fielded four punts for the Patriots this season. Jones had three attempts during the two games he played in. Myles Bryant gained 14 yards on his only punt return of the season.

But the bulk of the duties have gone to Douglas, who has six of the team’s 14 attempts.

Brown said he got to know Douglas during the Shrine Bowl before the Patriots selected him in the sixth round of the 2023 draft. Douglas’s quickness and thirst for knowledge stood out.

“He just seemed like a kid who loved football, and then he also had some quickness and was able to catch the ball and get open,” Brown said. “Those are the things that caught my eye on the tape.

“Obviously, when he was there, he didn’t practice a lot with the games and situations that go on there. But I just liked the kid. He was interested and he sat in the meetings and he learned.

“When he was able to get out there, he went and did pretty good. And, you know, got to see him again at the combine. So I thought he was an impressive kid.”

Putting it in motion

The Patriots scored a season-high 29 points Sunday against the Bills. The offensive line, boosted by Mike Ownenu’s shift to right tackle, allowed only one sack. Mac Jones was 25 of 30 passing for 272 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

A noticeable part of the performance was the amount of pre-snap motion that the Patriots were able to work into their scheme.

Offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien didn’t go into much detail when asked about the advantages that the motion brings to the offense.

“I think that’s probably more of a question you can ask me in a few years,” O’Brien said. “I’m not going to tell those things, you know what I mean?

“I just think it’s a week-to-week deal. We’re going to do what’s best for our offense, to try to move the ball weekly whatever that might be. It might be motion, it might be no motion, we’ll see how it goes.”

Jones praised O’Brien on the TV broadcast after the game, saying that he liked the aggressive approach and O’Brien’s use of concepts that Jones learned at Alabama.

“There’s some things that we do that really are still the foundation of this offense that maybe we do on a week-to-week basis that maybe dress things up a little bit differently and things like that,” O’Brien said.

“So whether it was Alabama or maybe 12 years ago New England offense, whatever it is, we’re always going to try to do things to put our guys in the right positions to make it where Mac can really communicate what he has to communicate and get things done.”

Bringing the energy

Kendrick Bourne, who has a team-high 370 receiving yards and three touchdowns, has been New England’s most consistent receiver this season. He has 51 targets, which is 20 more than Hunter Henry, who is second on the list.

Brown lauded Bourne for the energy he brings and his turnaround from a rough season last year.

“He’s made a 180 with his personal life and that’s the biggest thing,” Brown said. “But, as a football player, he’s KB. He loves football. He loves being out there. He loves playing.

“You can see it when he’s dancing around the field and all the stuff that he does. It brings a lot of energy to our football team.”

Originally posted 2023-10-24 20:05:15.