We’re moving on to the position that I love, cornerbacks. Cornerbacks are becoming more valuable every single year, with the emphasis of passing in our league and increasingly faster receivers. You need to have good cornerbacks to consistently win in this league.
Last year, the Chiefs got away with an undrafted rookie at cornerback, a veteran on his 3rd team, and a 6th round rookie. Yes, they all had good years, but we can’t rely on that again. We need to inject some serious talent into the position.
In keeping with the spirit of free agent previews, we’re starting with Byron Jones.
4 Games Watched: Saints, Vikings, Patriots, Eagles
161 Snaps, 15 targets, 8 catches, 89 yards (11.1 YPC), 5 passes defended, 0 penalties.
6’0, 205 lbs. 27 years old.
Byron Jones fits exactly how Steve Spagnuolo likes cornerbacks to function. He’s got really good length, very good vertical speed, and the ability to protect his 3rd of the field. He doesn’t have the best change of direction in the middle of the field, and he doesn’t pull down a lot of interceptions. Still, his ability in tracking the ball, his length, and versatility to play in many different coverage schemes was very valuable.
Dallas mainly played Cover 3, which asked Jones to protect his sideline often. He didn’t have to cover the middle of the field much, but protect vertically. Teams didn’t try to push the ball downfield on Jones, as he has the speed to recover on anything vertically. Double moves don’t work against him. I watched four games of Jones and I didn’t see a single downfield shot against him. The Chiefs play a lot of Cover 3 as well, and Jones would be able to be trusted way more than Breeland or Ward vertically.
Jones does travel on 3rd downs often. Dallas would play a lot of man coverage then, and he would be asked to travel with some of the best receivers in football. He can be beat if the receiver has a good release off the line of scrimmage, and slant and mesh routes can beat him. He’s fast vertically, but his change of direction isn’t the best. In a certain way, he’s like a very fast Richard Sherman. If asked to cover vertically, he excels at it.
There’s been a huge criticism of a lack of interceptions from Jones. He only had two interceptions his entire career. Not last season, but in five. Honestly, I don’t think that really matters. Jones does an incredible job tracking the ball in the air and he’s able to make plays on the ball. Honestly, I think he doesn’t get a lot of interceptions due to teams not really testing him vertically. It’s harder in Cover 3 to get a lot of underneath interceptions. That’s hurt Jones. It isn’t an issue of that he doesn’t have ball skills. That point has been far overblown.
Overall, in our zone scheme, Jones would be a perfect fit. He’s not Darrelle Revis, or even Chris Harris, who can cover anything, but he doesn’t require any safety help, and can travel. He’s only 27, so his speed won’t diminish anytime soon. Jones had a down year in 2019, but he’s the only cornerback who’s ever slowed down Michael Thomas. If we could get him the cornerback position would be instantly solved.
Byron Jones trusts his feet a lot. He doesn’t get beat by double moves and is able to stop and start quickly. He understands that if he gets beat on the move he has the speed to recover. That long speed is a very valuable asset in Cover 3.
Jones can be beat underneath. He does bite on some really good releases from the line of scrimmage. While he trusts his feet vertically and can recover, he struggles underneath. He can’t change directions super quickly, which can cause issues in man coverage, especially in underneath zones.
Jones is really good in a Cover 3 scheme. He protects vertically, tracks the ball well, and reads route concepts well. Here, on this sail concept, after passing the Go route on the #1 receiver, Jones sits on that sail route. Carson Wentz sees it open, but Jones makes a great play on the ball.
Jones isn’t going to pull down 8 interceptions a year. That’s not due to a lack of ball skills, though. He tracks the ball well and is able to make plays on the ball. Teams don’t throw at Jones very often, giving him few opportunities to intercept the ball.
Guys, Byron Jones is fantastic. Yes, he’s not Stephon Gilmore, but he has everything we need. He has the speed to not get beat vertically, he tracks the ball well and can travel. No matter what’s asked from him, he can do it. For the Chiefs, that would be super valuable.
The problem is price. Jones is going to make 14-16 million a year, at least. If the Chiefs had money, I would love giving Jones a 3 year, 48 million dollar deal. That only happens if we trade Jones and restructure Watkins. While I think that’s becoming more likely by the day, I think we’re more likely to sign someone like James Bradburry (stay tuned for him).