Patriots rookie Cyrus Jones taking advantage of new locker location


Patriots rookie Cyrus Jones taking advantage of new locker location

FOXBORO -- Cyrus Jones smiled knowingly when it was pointed out to him that his new stall inside the Patriots locker room was the same one occupied by Darrelle Revis back in 2014. Though the rookie corner had just been relocated, he was already well aware that one of his idols once set up shop in the same space.

Final cuts have a very tangible effect on the physical makeup of the Patriots locker room. Not only are there typically about 20 fewer players residing inside, but many of the players who remain employed by the team end up having their locker name plates stripped and slapped above new locations. 

Rookies, especially, are often situated in a new area following final cuts. Whereas they might be in the back corner of the room -- out of sight from where Tom Brady or Rob Gronkowski hang out -- and sharing a locker with another young teammate throughout training camp, once the regular season arrives, they are suddenly in the middle of things. 


Patriots coach Bill Belichick said on Monday that he and his staff don't give the order of the locker room much thought. "I don’t think we’re up late into the night on that," he explained. Still, the move can feel significant for those doing the moving. 

Jones was one of those back-corner rookies this summer, but he had his place moved to the center of the room, between defensive captain Devin McCourty and fourth-year veteran corner Logan Ryan. He tries not to nag his new neighbors with too many questions, but he feels fortunate they've already welcomed him with open arms. 

"As a rookie coming in, when you get drafted, you're wondering where you're going to be," Jones said. "How's the locker-room situation going to be? How are the older guys going to accept you? That's a big thing. I think it's taken for granted how important that is for a young guy coming in, just making that transition. The more the older guys accept you and welcome you into the group, the easier and smoother it is for you to kind of make that transition. I'm blessed to have guys like this to be around and have as my teammates and guys to look up to."


As a second-round pick Jones was never in any danger of having his name plate tossed in the trash, but he also didn't coast off his draft status. He performed well enough this summer to earn himself a spot in the Patriots secondary -- contributing at times in their nickel-and-dime sets in the preseason -- as well as in their kick-return plans. As a result, there has been a lot on his plate. On top of studying the defensive playbook, he's analyzed opposing punters to get a jump-start on their tendencies and how they may try to keep him off balance. 

"I like it," Jones said of the workload. "It's a challenge, but at the same time, it's also a respect thing. That just shows you how much they see in you and what they expect is a high standard. It only pushes you to either meet that expectation or exceed it. I just embrace it, and let it help me continue to kind of study and prepare and to whatever I'm going to face during the season and just elevate my game to the next level and show them that I can do it to their expectations."

Jones already may be close to reaching that level as a punt returner. He recorded returns of 60 and 34 yards in New England's final two preseason games, and Julian Edelman -- who owns the third-best career punt-return average in the Super Bowl era -- calls him a "stud" special-teamer.

In the same way that Jones leans on the advice of his fellow defensive backs, he has received help from Edelman in the return game. And now, from his new locker location, if he ever wants to tap Edelman -- or Ryan, or McCourty, or Malcolm Butler, or Patrick Chung -- on the shoulder going forward, he won't have to travel nearly as far to do so.

"I just pick their brains as much as I can," Jones said. "Of course I don't try to bother them too much, but I watch a lot so I'm not always asking questions. Definitely just observing the way they work and go about their business. I feel as though I can learn from them how to continue to grow as a professional and just learn how to just reach the next level in this league."

Reports: Patriots among NFL teams taking a look at Manziel

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Reports: Patriots among NFL teams taking a look at Manziel

Johnny Manziel said 10 days ago, "I'd go to New England in a heartbeat," when asked about the Patriots as a potential landing spot.

That seemed like wishful thinking at the time, but they're taking a look at him...along with 12 other NFL teams, according to ESPN's Eric Williams. 

Tom Brady's current backup Brian Hoyer is, like Manziel, an ex-Cleveland Browns quarterback. Manziel would again be competing with Hoyer for the Pats' No. 2 job should New England take a chance on "Johnny Football", the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner from Texas A&M, who's been out of football the past two years because of substance abuse and emotional problems.

FOX Sports' Bruce Feldman had it at 12 teams watching Manziel work out at the University of San Diego and said the Patriots gave Manziel a weigh-in.


Patriots re-sign offensive tackle LaAdrian Waddle

Patriots re-sign offensive tackle LaAdrian Waddle

The Patriots have agreed to re-sign offensive lineman LaAdrian Waddle, his agent Scott Casterline confirmed on Twitter.  Waddle hit unrestricted free agency when the new league year began and made a visit to the Cowboys earlier this week. In the end, though, he chose to return to the team that claimed him off of waivers at the end of the 2015 season.

Waddle, who turns 27 in July, appeared in 12 games last season for the Patriots. He was the first right tackle the Patriots turned to when Marcus Cannon suffered an ankle injury mid-season against the Chargers. He ended up playing 51 snaps against the likes of Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram without allowing a sack. He then started the next three games against the Broncos, Raiders and Dolphins and held star rushers Von Miller, Khalil Mack and Cameron Wake -- all of whom rush primarily off of the offensive right -- without a sack. 

Injuries forced Waddle (380 snaps on the season) to split the right tackle position with Cameron Fleming (543 snaps), but he was the primary backup when healthy. Waddle started the Divisional Round playoff game against the Titans but suffered a knee injury and was removed for Fleming. 

Both Fleming and Waddle visited the Cowboys this week, and the fact that Waddle has re-signed with the Patriots may impact Fleming's decision moving forward. 

The Patriots went to great lengths to build tackle depth last season, and adding Waddle to the roster helps them retain some of that depth after losing their left tackle, Nate Solder, to the Giants via free agency. Waddle could be an option on the left side, but the vast majority of his work since entering the league as an undrafted rookie in 2013 has been on the right side. 

The Patriots now have Fleming, Marcus Cannon, Cole Croston, Tony Garcia and Andrew Jelks on their depth chart at tackle. Croston, Garcia and Jelks are all headed into their second years as pros. Croston remained on the 53-man roster all season -- an indication that the Patriots liked him enough not to expose him to the waiver system -- but did not see meaningful snaps. Garcia and Jelks both missed the entirety of the 2017 season on reserve lists. 

Once the Patriots lost Solder to the Giants, it seemed to be of paramount importance that the Patriots re-sign either Waddle or Fleming. Behind Cannon, there were simply too many question marks not to have one return. The Patriots could opt to draft a tackle, but this is considered an average year at that position in that there are few ready-made NFL players and several developmental types.

Before the Super Bowl last season, I asked offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia how the team was able to manage offensively with backups at right tackle for much of the season. 

"It's not like [Fleming and Waddle are] not good players," Scarnecchia said. "They are good players. Their skill set seemed to fit that position pretty well. They have the traits that we covet. And they're both really smart guys, very willing learners, and they're both driven to be good and they want to play good. And I think all those things have manifested themselves when they've been out there playing. And we've been very, very pleased with what they've done for us this year, essentially splitting that position."

Asked about the aspects of the game the Patriots worked on with both Waddle and Fleming last year, Scarnecchia said, "For us it transcends everything. Obviously run-blocking and pass-blocking. They're both good at those things. Are they great at those things? No. But they've been able to steadily improve over the last two years to the point where we put them out there and no one's worried. And it's been that way the whole season after Marcus got hurt. Yeah they've done a nice job for us."