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The Patriots Lose Jonathan Jones for the Season and This One's Gonna Hurt

CJ GUNTHER. Shutterstock Images.

Few, if any, things can harsh the buzz of a 41-point victory away faster than this. 

Injuries are the party killers of football. They're the parents coming home unexpectedly just as your light beer glow is kicking in,  you've found your perfect conversation groove, and the girl from your Intro to Physical Science class is giving you all the non-verbal clues that the formula You + Her is about to = Chemistry. Because even if the Patriots defense only gave up 13 points without Jonathan Jones, this is a major, major loss. 

The days of Slot Shaming (H/T to "The League" for putting that one into the lexicon) are long since past. Slot receiver is a full time starting position and ipso facto so then is slot receiver. There's no surviving in a league of Cooper Kupp and Davante Adams and Christian Kirk and even Tyreek Hill being one of the purest deep threats of his generation mainly from the inside the numbers without someone that possesses the very specialized skill that was typically defaulted to a depth guy just 15 or so years ago. And Jonathan Jones, for better or worse, has been the Patriots slot corner for a few years now. 

This season, he's lined up at slot 144 times, which is 50% more than the No. 2 Patriots defender, Kyle Dugger, despite playing in one fewer game. And Dugger is a pure safety who only has so many because he tends to get assigned to the Move tight ends. Besides, outside from this outstanding Jackie Bradley Jr. shoestring catch:

… he struggled in coverage yesterday, giving up a catch all three times he was targeted for 43 yards and committing a penalty. He's not the answer. 

The answer against the Jets was Myles Bryant, who was recruited, Nick Fury-style, off the practice squad and made a full time Avenger. In all he played 56 snaps, 44 in coverage, and 31 of those from the slot. Second most in the slot was Jalen Mills, who has been primarily the CB2 opposite JC Jackson so far this season, but has a ton of experience all over the secondary after being one of the league's most movable pieces in Philly. 

So right now it appears that the job of replacing Jones falls to Bryant, who gave up a reception to Michael Carter and another Ty Johnson the only two times he was targeted. Both for 1st downs. And both with significant yards after the catch (18 of 19 total yards). Which doesn't put us in a great place with the Chargers coming up and Keenan Allen among the top 12 slot WR in the league in terms of targets, receptions and catch %. Not to mention the likes of Terrace Marshall Jr., Rashard Higgins and Emmanuel Sanders (twice) on the horizon. 

But frankly, there's not a lot of other options. The Pats made a trade a while back with Baltimore for Ohio State rookie Shaun Wade, who's promising but is dealing with a concussion, and certainty doesn't get less certain than that. Of course, we can't broach this topic without mentioning how much less of a problem it would be if Stephon Gilmore, who's begun to practice with the Panthers, was beginning to practice in Foxboro. Then they'd have the luxury of moving Mills into the slot and working Bryant into the mix in certain spots. But he wanted to be in Carolina. They granted his wish. And while we don't have a proven commodity at a crucial position, we do have that 6th round pick in 2023 to look forward to, if the virus and weather don't kill us first. 

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Anyway, sorry to wreck the mood, but there's no shine I can put on this sneaker. Unless Bryant turns out to be their next great undrafted cornerback find and Mills proves he can take on opponent's WR2 and Joejuan Williams continues to play above-and-beyond like he did against the Jets, there's a good chance we'll see a lot more results like the Cowboys game last week. Here's hoping I'm wrong and these guys do step up. Because one 445-yard passing game was plenty for one lifetime.