Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports

Sunday 7: Why Cyrus Jones’ roster spot is not in jeopardy

Ryan Hannable
August 13, 2017 - 6:00 am

1. Cyrus Jones is not going to get cut. Why is it so cut and dry? Bill Belichick has never cut a second-round pick after just one season, no matter how bad they have been. Chad Jackson was released prior to his third year, Darius Butler prior to his third year, Ras-I Dowling before his third year and Jermaine Cunningham before his fourth year. One year just isn’t enough to truly evaluate a player and how they are best used. A lot of heat went to Jones in Thursday’s first preseason game with the two long passing touchdowns going against him, but after re-watching the second, it’s clear the Patriots were playing Cover-2 and Jordan Richards was expected to help over the top. Still, this doesn’t fully clear Jones, but it wasn’t all on him. Jones still figures to have a role with the team this year as the primary punt returner and potentially somewhere on defense. The talent is there, as he wasn’t a second-round pick out of Alabama for nothing. Also, don’t be surprised if the team tries him at a new position. We saw him play safety in the fourth quarter of Thursday’s preseason game, so maybe this could be a sign of things to come, or at least an attempt to make him more valuable to keep around.

2. One former second-round pick who may be in danger of getting cut is Richards. He didn’t have the greatest game Thursday night, as he was involved in the 79-yard touchdown run taking a poor angle and as mentioned before he was expected to help over the top on the second long touchdown pass in the second half. The 2015 second-round pick was a healthy scratch down the stretch last season, including the playoffs. Due to who is ahead of him on the depth chart at safety (Devin McCourty, Duron Harmon and Patrick Chung), there hasn’t been playing time available during the year, but when he has got on the field in the last two preseasons it hasn’t looked pretty. Belichick has cut second rounders after two seasons before, so it wouldn’t be a total shock to see it happen again.

3. One of the breakout stars of Thursday’s game was undrafted rookie tight end Jacob Hollister. He caught seven passes for 116 yards and made a strong case to be the third tight end on the roster. He is currently battling with Matt Lengel and James O’Shaughnessy, both of whom didn’t play in the game. Hollister, who went to Wyoming, is the twin brother of undrafted rookie wide receiver Cody, who played at Arkansas, and is also on the Patriots. On a conference call Friday, Belichick explained how the team found Jacob. “Wyoming had a very good football team, had a number of pro prospects. They have some more this year, so that’s no secret,” he said. “It's a good program and they play good competition. He had a good spring workout. We also worked out his brother at Arkansas and then Jacob actually trained at Arkansas with his brother in the spring. Obviously, he was pretty committed to playing football, was in a good training program and when the opportunity came after the draft to fill out our roster, he was one of the players that we approached and we were fortunate to be able to sign him.”

4. The thought that Dion Lewis might be on the bubble to make the 53-man roster makes no sense. What sense would it make cutting a player with the talent Lewis has, especially when he has a cap hit of just $1.4 million? He may be behind Mike Gillislee and Rex Burkhead on the depth chart when it comes to running the ball, but Gillislee has been out for roughly a week with a hamstring injury and maybe no back in the backfield has the ability to make people miss like Lewis. Some questioned him playing in the game Thursday with many of the starters sitting, but Belichick explained the reasoning in his conference call Friday. It had to do with his torn ACL in 2015. “Just overall an opportunity for backs to just sharpen up their skills, their run reads, getting tackled, dealing with contact, making those quick decisions with the ball in their hands that you practice in practice, but we all know it’s not quite the same as game situations, especially the tackling and contact part of it,” he said. “I think it's good for those guys to get used to that, so the first one isn’t in a regular season game and they're not used to it. Hopefully, this will help to break them into that.”

5. If there was one question on the Patriots’ roster right now, it may be depth at defensive end. It started with Rob Ninkovich’s retirement and now the latest may be the issues with Kony Ealy. Many expected him to be a big contributor, but he’s been getting pushed around in the first few weeks and it carried over to the game on Thursday. The best defensive end has been rookie Deatrich Wise, but he suffered a head injury in Thursday’s game. It’s especially important for rookies Derek Rivers and Wise to develop because they will be counted on significantly since third-year player Trey Flowers can’t do everything.

6. It’s hard to find a reason why Jimmy Garoppolo plays better in games than in practices, but maybe it is when he is out of the shadow of Tom Brady and the offense is his and his alone. Garoppolo excelled in his six quarters last year when he knew Brady was gone because of his suspension and then Thursday night he knew Brady wasn’t going to play in the game at all. In practice he always has Brady hovering over his shoulder, so perhaps this has something to do with it. There’s no evidence to prove it, but it’s just a thought that makes some sense.

7. This will be an interesting week for the Patriots practicing with the Texans at the Greenbrier in West Virginia. Based on what happened last year in the matchups — two Patriots blowouts — Bill O’Brien likely will have his team fired up for the two sessions. This past week with the Jaguars was a little more laid back compared to other joint sessions the Patriots have had in the past, so expect the intensity to rise. With the game Saturday night in Houston, the two teams will travel on Thursday and have a walkthrough in Houston on Friday (likely separate). It will be a good memory for the Patriots considering NRG Stadium was the site of their Super Bowl LI win last February.

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