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The CHGO Sports crew continues “Making the Case” for prospects the Chicago Bears should consider drafting.
One area of major weakness for the Chicago Bears last season was the play of their nickel corner position.
It’s been this way since the loss of Bryce Callahan after the 2018 season.
Chicago fielded a number of players at the position, but no one played at a high enough level to make the Bears feel comfortable about it entering the 2022 season.
If the Bears want to address this need with a long-term answer, general manager Ryan Poles must draft Houston’s Marcus Jones.
Marcus Jones’ Strengths
Head coach Matt Eberflus is preaching takeaways as he takes over the Bears and strives to instill this new identity into Chicago’s defense. Jones has a history of strong ball production throughout his collegiate career. His five interceptions in 2021 were tied for the second-most in the FBS. He also ranked fourth in the nation with pass breakups (13).
Jones’ twitchy athleticism allows him to play at a fast level. He has some of the best burst and quickness in this year’s class. That ability to change direction on a dime enables him to stick with receivers and make a play on the ball.
Jones has a knack for watching the quarterback’s eyes and anticipating where the ball is going to be thrown. He also possesses strong hands and the ability to go vertical to attack the ball at its highest point. Jones loves to be physical at the catch point too.
The combination of aggression, athletic traits, and instincts creates the ball hawk that Jones is.
That’s not the only way Jones can make impact plays on defense. Despite his smaller size (5-foot-8, 185 pounds), Jones can deliver bone-jarring hits.
But wait, that’s not all …
The former Cougar would also provide Chicago with dynamic return ability. Jones was an ultra-productive returner in college with nine career touchdown returns. He finished fourth in the FBS in punt return yards on average (14.4) and had the best kickoff return grade in college football on PFF (91.6).
There’s also a third area where Jones has value … offense. That’s right, Jones can also be used as a playmaking option as a receiver. He finished last season with 10 catches, 109 yards and a touchdown as a wideout.
Jones is a rare three-way player who can be an asset in a variety of roles for the Bears.
Marcus Jones’ Weaknesses
His lack of size is a definite concern heading into the next level as Jones is small, even for a slot corner. Jones does play with a chip on his shoulder and doesn’t shy away from anything despite being smaller than most others on the field. But, how he can handle some of the bigger-bodied receivers in the NFL is a serious question mark.
Due to Jones’ aggressive nature, he can get into trouble with illegal contact and pass interference penalties. He needs to clean that up.
And despite being an ultra-productive returner, Jones needs to improve his ball security as he has had issues with fumbles.
Making the Case
The Bears need to fill their nickel corner position. By drafting Jones, Chicago brings an athletic playmaker at the position who embodies everything Eberflus is trying to instill. Jones plays with high energy that his teammates feed off. His passion for the game is evident on every snap.
Jones can turn the Bears’ weakness into a strength. Quarterbacks won’t be able to pick on the slot like they did last season with Jones in the mix. He only allowed completions on 50 percent of targets over the past two seasons. Jones also had more interceptions (six) than touchdowns allowed (4) over the same time span.
He does more than just defend the pass, Jones doesn’t shy away from getting in on the action with run support too, which is paramount for nickel corners in the NFL.
Jones can be used as a blitzer from the slot as well. Defensive coordinator Alan Williams can have fun putting Jones in a position to do what he does best — make game-changing plays.
The Bears lost pro-bowl returner, Jakeem Grant, to the Browns. Jones would enter the building as the clear-cut replacement. No second thoughts needed. His return skills are exceptional.
And don’t forget the ability to also have a role on offense.
Jones projects as a special (and versatile) player at the next level. At the very least, the Bears can have a long-term answer at returner. But more likely, by drafting Jones, Chicago will find itself solidifying the nickel corner position for years to come.
Jones is a great fit for the Bears every way you cut it.
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