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Forced to step in at cornerback, second-year player Jonathan Jones, who’d primarily been used as a special teamer to that point in time, stepped up last Sunday in New Orleans.

Jonathan Jones majored in business ad ministration at Auburn Univer sity.

Which is exactly what he was doing at the Mercedes- Benz Superdome last Sunday afternoon – taking care of busi ness.

“It was a good feeling to be out there, be out there with those guys and be able to con tribute on defense,” the Patriots cornerback-special teamer said. “I’d say you have to be pre pared when your name’s called and when it’s your time go out there and not miss a beat and for it to (not) look like the backup’s in because they’re go ing to come at the guys they’re not used to seeing. So you have to be able to step in and make the plays.”

With the groin injury Eric Rowe suffered in the game forcing Jones into some rather extensive duty, the 5-foot-10, 190-pounder was on the field for 27 of the Patriots’ 62 plays on defense (42 percent) and an other 19 on special teams in their 36-20 victory over New Orleans.

Jones had two tackles, but what were easily his two biggest plays in the game were two breakups of Drew Brees passes, one on which he literal ly stripped Ted Ginn of a po tential touchdown reception, the other denying Brandin Coleman on a deep ball.

Those two plays drew a rave review from head coach Bill Belichick, who said “the technique that (Jones) used to finish the play at the final re ception point was excellent, perfect” and called it “textbook technique, what we teach all of our players to do.”

“I think the biggest point is just trying to make an impact in any way you can,” said Jones. “If you’re on the team, whatever they ask you to do be able to do it and do it to the best of your abilities. I think for me, that’s definitely important. A guy that’s undrafted, you get in where you fit in and be able to do more. Bill always says that. The more you can do and just be able to contribute in any way possible.”

While he quickly developed into a key contributor on spe cial teams (eight tackles, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery in that phase of the game during the regular sea son; four special teams stops to tie Patrick Chung for the team lead in the playoffs), Jones has had to bide his time on defense (only six tackles and one pass defensed all of last year; he was on the field for just three de fensive plays in the Patriots’ 42-27 season-opening loss to Kansas City this year) since he entered the league as a rookie free agent out of Auburn.

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Duke Riley earned a starting job at weakside linebacker as a rookie for the Atlanta Falcons.
Duke Riley earned a starting job at weakside linebacker as a rookie for the Atlanta Falcons.( | The Times-Picayune archive)

Former LSU linebacker Duke Riley earned a starting job for Atlanta in his first NFL game, Falcons coach Dan Quinn announced Friday.

Riley, the LSU team MVP last year, was a third round pick by the Falcons and will start at weakside linebacker in the Falcons’ base package. He will line up alongside former Tiger teammate and middle linebacker Deion Jones when the Falcons play at Chicago Sunday at noon.

In a sense, he outdid his close friend Jones, who didn’t earn the starting job with the Falcons until later in the 2016 season. Jones led all rookies with 108 tackles and helped the Falcons to the Super Bowl.

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Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones is the second-best draft pick out of the University of Alabama since 2000, according to’s Chase Goodbread.

Jones was the Falcons’ top pick at No. 6 in the 2011 draft, and Goodbread notes they made a serious commitment to get him — surrendering two first-round picks, a second rounder and two fourth rounders to move up — and it was a decision that was criticized from many at the time. But it’s a move that netted them one of the league’s elite receivers, a four-time Pro Bowler who has averaged 108 catches and 1,624 yards over his first six seasons.

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