The miraculous Marcus Jones punt return wasn’t a miracle play for the rookie return specialist: Jones has been making these kinds of plays for years.
In 2020, the Patriots drafted Lenoir-Rhyne cornerback Kyle Duggar with the No. 37 overall pick, the highest pick spent on a Division II player in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Picking Duggar exemplified what the Patriots seem to do best in drafts: pick up underrated gems and polishing the best in them. Julian Edelman, Malcolm Butler — these are just a few overlooked draftees who went on to become Foxboro legends.
Duggar too has proven to be a valuable pick, and it seems that in the 2022 NFL Draft, the Patriots hit yet again. In the third round, they selected Houston cornerback Marcus Jones. Jones originally hailed from the Sun Belt conference as a special teams star from Troy University, and while Jones went on to flourish at Houston, there’s a striking parallel between Jones and Duggar. Jones was valued by New England because of his special teams capabilities, talents that were apparently undervalued by the rest of the NFL. After Week 11, teams may be regretting that choice.
With seconds left in the game, the Jets punted to Jones, who evaded a field full of tackles to score the only touchdown of the game, giving the Patriots a 9-3 victory over New York.
As the NFL Twitter account put it, Marcus Jones had “Gillette in a frenzy” — and it won’t be the last time Patriots fans can expect this kind of play from him.
As ESPN’s Field Yates announced, Jones is the first NFL player to return a punt for a touchdown in the 2022 season — and on an 84-yard return at that. Not only did Jones thrash any hope the Jets had of winning in overtime and ending their own streak, but he went on to break an NFL streak and showcase his potential on the national stage.
Patriots star Marcus Jones announces NFL arrival by ending league-wide punt return streak
Back in May, MusketFire’s Sara Marshall let the Twitter world know exactly why the Patriots were keen on their latest acquisition.
Patriots writers like Evan Lazar are already reflecting on the many times Jones did this in college, such as a near-identical circumstance versus SMU.
With under a minute left in a tied game, Jones returned a punt for 100 yards and a touchdown, trouncing SMU in a 44-37 upset.
Yahoo! wanted to be sure everyone on Twitter got the message: this stunning play is a usual thing for Marcus Jones.
NFL analysts are even criticizing the Jets for giving Jones an opportunity to return a punt, even with seconds left.
Calling upon a recent statement by Bill Belichick, Niners Nation editor Kyle Posey called back to Belichick’s Nov. 9 comments.
“One of the best returners in the sport during the past decade,” Posey noted. “Jones was always going to be special.”
Marcus Jones already wields a historic NCAA record: 9 career returns for a touchdown. As it turns out, his first time trying it out in the NFL ended up being a game-winner.
College football fans, especially from Houston, are delighted to see the underrated special teams player get the limelight he deserves. Even if critics laughed at the Patriots for going high on Cole Strange or taking a punt returner in the third round, it turns out that these decisions helped them clinch a must-win over the Jets.