It is a question many Cowboys fans, including myself, have been asking in the early stages of this season – what impact has first round pick Byron Jones had on this defense?
Jones has been relatively invisible and has not gotten the chance to show off his freakish athletic ability. However, for a defensive back, attention can be the last thing you want.
As someone that aspires in broadcasting, I can confirm that mentioning a defensive back's name is often out of necessity – when they make a great (or, more times than not, negative) play.
The speed of the game is simply too fast to consistently notice a corner that is locking somebody down unless it is a top wide receiver.
Jones has not gone up against top receivers with the resurgence of Morris Claiborne. Rather, he has seen most of his snaps lined up against the opposing tight end. Knowing that, it's time to take a deeper look at his performance this season and evaluate the impact the rookie has had.
The Cowboys allowed the most receptions to tight ends last season by a mile. This season, they have allowed just 16 receptions – better than or on par with 20 teams around the league.
Giants' tight ends Larry Donnell and Daniel Fells combined for six receptions against Dallas in week 1, but neither found the end zone.
The following week, Jones was a big part of the Cowboys defensive domination in Philadelphia – blanketing Zach Ertz for three receptions.
Two Falcons' tight ends combined for two receptions in the team's week 3 loss and New Orleans had similar struggles at the position.
Josh Hill did score the first TE touchdown the Cowboys allowed for the Saints, but Jones was not on the coverage.
This week, Jones may actually make headlines – for better or worse – against the league's premier tight end Rob Gronkowski.
There is no question that Gronkowski will be the best TE the Cowboys have seen all season, and the Patriots likely the best all around offense.
Jones has the support of his head coach, who said, “Rob Gronkowski isn't Byron Jones' problem. He's our problem”. If Sean Lee is fully healthy, expect him to see some snaps in coverage against Gronkowski.
Overall, this game will serve as a measuring stick for the rookie Byron Jones.
Some of the league's top defenders have been abused by Gronkowski in recent history. If he is able to use his speed and athleticism to shut down Gronk, it may finally turn some positive attention towards him moving forward.
What have you seen from Jones' this season? Can he lock down Gronkowski? Let me know below or on Twitter @ShoreSportsNJ!