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Does This Patriots Player Deserve To Win Rookie Of The Year?

Reviewing the potential winners of this year’s Defensive Rookie of The Year Award, including Patriots CB Jack Jones.

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Reviewing the potential winners of this year’s Defensive Rookie of The Year Award, including Patriots CB Jack Jones.


As the mid-season wrap-up concludes and teams begin to contemplate their chances at a 2022 NFL playoff berth, most of the 2022 NFL draft picks who project to be long-term starters have played enough snaps for the football world to figure out what they’re capable of. There are four strong candidates this year to win the Defensive Rookie of The Year Award, three of which are Cornerbacks (the other player is Lions edge rusher, Aidan Hutchinson).

These three true standout rookie cornerbacks from what was a traditionally strong defensive draft held earlier this year are projected to make an impact and develop into full-fledged stars in this league. I thought it would be worth going over the three of them briefly and making a case for each as to who should win DROY (if any of them) and briefly predicting how each player may continue to evolve throughout the remainder of their incredibly young careers.

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So yeah, ahem. Here we go.


Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, CB, Jets

Drafted: 1st round (4th overall) in the 2022 NFL Draft

-170 to win DROY

The Sauce is currently the consensus defensive rookie of the year going into Week 11 of the 2022 NFL Regular Season. He’s expected to have a lengthy and prosperous career at this point and will likely be a key catalyst in future hype rival showdowns between the Patriots and the Jets twice a year. It sucks he had to end up in our division because this guy is the real deal.

He’s started nine out of nine games for the Jets this year and recorded 44 tackles, two INT, three TFLs, and an insane 13 PD so far this year (13 PDs is the most in the league amongst all defenders currently). Sauce is a college legend who amazingly never surrendered a TD to an opposing receiver during his time with the Cincinnati Bearcats. His obvious skill has instantly and easily evolved to an NFL level, and he’s already a top-5 CB in the league statistically among both rookies and veterans. He also currently has PFF’s highest-ranking coverage grade at 90.4.

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It’s not like he’s been going up against scrubs all season either; some of the receivers he’s covered this season include Amari Cooper, Ja’Marr Chase, Tyreek Hill, and Stefon Diggs. He’s only allowed 20 catches for 189 this year, and in man coverage, opposing WRs have only had four catches for 28 yards. It sounds almost impossible, especially for a rookie. This guy is on his way to becoming an NFL legend, and I pray I never have to say this many positive things directed toward the Jets or a Jets player ever again.

Sauce will win the Defensive Rookie of the Year award so long as he doesn’t get injured. Even then, he still might. Unfortunately for us here in New England, he’ll be a legend in this league for years to come and might go down as one of the best CBs of all time. We’re gonna need some extra-strength voodoo to get rid of this guy.


Jack Jones, CB, Patriots

Drafted: 4th round (121st overall) in the 2022 NFL Draft

+1800 to win DROY

Jack Jones is a completely different prototype of a player than Sauce but could surprise many people in proving to be just as effective and impactful of a player. Jack Jones has been phenomenal in coverage; at one point this season, he also possessed the highest coverage grade by PFF with a 92.0 (back in Week Five).

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Along with his above-average play in coverage this year, he has shown a consistent ability to come up with big plays for the defense. He currently has 2 INT and a FF on the year, which all included uproarious cheers from the crowd, as Patriots takeaways have become increasingly rare over the last few years. On any play, he has the potential to shift the momentum in our favor, and that’s an intangible that a lot of NFL players don’t possess for whatever reason.

The kid is definitely special. Watching him play reminds me a little of a young Ty Law, and in tandem with Dugger and Phillips, who are two of the hardest-hitting safeties I’ve seen in this league since Rodney Harrison, the three of them help this young Patriot’s defense strongly resemble legendary and successful Patriots defensive units of the past.

He’s probably not going to win the DROY award this year because he’s only started one game out of the nine games we’ve played so far. However, he has seen action in all nine games and has been involved in at least 60% of snaps in each game since his lonely start in Week Four against the Packers. You have to think he’d have similar stats to Sauce if he’d been out there playing as many snaps, but I hesitate to question our coaching staff, and I have no doubt he’s being used to his fullest potential in Belichick’s eyes.

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If Jack Jones can keep up this current level of coverage and put together a couple more highlight reel turnovers during key moments this season, he could potentially stand a fighting chance at winning DROY this year. It’d have to be a lot, though, like A LOT over the next eight games. It’s very unlikely, but as I like to say, you never know until you know, you know?

The arc of your typical New England Patriots player career is fairly unpredictable, so it’s hard to say exactly how Jack Jones’s career will turn out. If I had to guess, I think that he might be one of many legendary players who have taken a little bit less money to help the team out and, in return, receive the honor/chance to play under the great Bill Belichick. He’s not quite good enough for one of those huge contracts yet, But if he gets any better, he’ll probably get dealt to some other team that’s willing to pay the $200 million or whatever four years from now on when his rookie contract expires.

Personally, I’d love to see us keep most of our current young defenders as long as possible, this is an incredible unit already, and most of the players have hardly scratched the surface of their careers. It’d be a stretch to say anyone outside of Judon on this defense has reached their full potential. It should be very exciting to see how this Jack Jones and the rest of this unit evolve over the remainder of the season and also the years that follow.

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Tariq Woolen, CB, Seahawks

Drafted: 5th round (153rd overall) in the 2022 NFL Draft

+275 to win DROY

I don’t know much about this guy at all. I have watched exactly one seahawks game this year when they put the Kabosh on Russell Wilson and the Broncos during Week One of the season. That was a horrible game to watch, similar to all the other Broncos games I’ve seen this year, and I really don’t remember if Woolen was even a factor. From the stat line he recorded, it’s easy to say he didn’t do too much, but to be fair, it was his first start as a rookie.

He’s started 10 out of 10 games this year for the Seahawk’s defense, and in that time, he’s recorded: 34 tackles, Two fumble recoveries, Nine PD, One Defensive TD, and an incredible 5 INT during the season so far. His five interceptions rank second most in the league behind Eagles Safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson, who currently has six.

Tariq was named this week as a member of the PFF 2022 Midseason NFL All-Rookie Team, along with Gardner. Woolen is clearly putting together an impressive season as the numbers dictate, and I’m eagerly awaiting the next time I catch a Seahawks game, so I can see him in action. He stands a better chance of winning DROY than Jack Jones right now, and if he can keep up this pace and record a few more interceptions, it will be an incredibly close race between Woolen and Gardner for the award toward the end of this season.

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Chances are Tariq Woolen will also become a star cornerback in this league, along with his two peers mentioned above. Woolen ran the fastest combine time out of all cornerbacks and was actually a wide receiver during his first few years in college. It makes sense that a WR convert would have an enhanced ability to catch the ball, which obviously shows in the numbers he’s recorded this year. I expect Tariq Woolen to make the pro-bowl a few times and be a star and face of the franchise for the Seahawks organization for years to come.


Conclusion

We may only have the third-best CB taken in this year’s draft in that of Jack Jones, but frankly, that’s still a wonderful thing for us to be able to say as Patriots fans. Jones might not be as good as the other two guys, but so far, he’s played at a high level and given us some unforgettable moments over the first nine weeks of this season.

There’s still a chance Jack Jones goes nuts during the next few weeks and shifts the odds more towards his favor for DROY, but as things currently sit, people are saying they might as well just give the award to Sauce Gardner now. Sauce has only allowed 21 yards per game so far; he’s already one of the best players in the NFL. Hopefully, someday we can say the same about Jones (that he’s one of the best in the NFL), but for now… His true potential remains mostly unknown and unlocked.

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For now, Jack Jones projects to be a valuable asset for the Patriots for years to come, and that’s something to be thankful for, despite him having two peers who have proven to be slightly better at this point. We got the third-best CB in the draft this year. Bill knocked it out of the park basically, essentially replacing incumbent CB J.C. Jackson (who has been an absolute disaster for the Chargers after signing a five-year $82.5 million dollar deal during the offseason upon departing from New England) for pennies on the dollar replacing him with a fifth-round draft pick that nobody really expected to be quite this good.

I’d like to leave you with a couple of clips of Jack Jones doing his thing, here you go:

Another W for Belichick, the GM, as far as most of us are concerned. Go Pats!

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GO PATS!

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Written By

Lifelong Patriots fan. Saw every Patriots championship banner raised in person (thanks Dad). I was at deflategate. Made the best catch in the history of the Gillette Stadium parking lot.

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