Sometimes a change of scenery can make all the difference, especially if it’s coming back home.
Former Gilman School star Cyrus Jones was signed to the Ravens practice squad Monday morning. He was released by the New England Patriots just two years after they made him a second-round pick.
Jones is a nickel corner who also brings big-time special teams returner ability. The Ravens could use reserves at both spots.
Jones was a standout cornerback and returner at Alabama, so the Ravens and General Manager Ozzie Newsome are quite aware of his talent.
The 5-foot-10 Jones started as a wide receiver at Alabama but changed positions before his sophomore season. He was named to the second-team All-SEC after his first year at cornerback. Following a torn labrum in his hip, Jones returned to start all 15 games his senior year and was even better in coverage. He was a feisty, physical press cornerback who was good in run support.
One of his greatest skills coming out of college was as a returner. Jones scored four touchdowns on punt returns during his senior year, just one short of tying the FBS record.
Those accolades did not immediately transfer from college to the pros, however. Jones played in 10 games during his 2016 rookie season. He didn’t see much action on defense (seven tackles) and had a disastrous time with fumbles as a returner.
Jones fumbled once on a kickoff and had four fumbles on 11 punt returns, including one against the Ravens that opened the door to a furious Baltimore comeback in Foxborough. That put Jones deep in Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick’s doghouse.
Jones then suffered a torn ACL and partially torn MCL last preseason, which sidelined him for his entire sophomore year. He returned for his first game action of the year Thursday in New England’s preseason finale.
Now Jones will have time to continue to build back up physically and work out the kinks in his return game. A fresh start could make a huge mental difference. The Ravens already have a strong slot cornerback in Tavon Young, who is also coming off a torn ACL from last season, but talented depth on the practice squad is always a positive.