Jones strives to be confident but humble

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Jones strives to be confident but humble

FOXBORO -- So far, Chandler Jones has seemed comfortable talking with reporters.
Maybe too comfortable.
Friday, the rookie turned to face the media hoard in nothing but shorts and a white Patriots training camp hat. Quarterback Tom Brady yelled something over to Jones that set the big kid off chortling.
What was so funny?
"He told me to put a shirt on," Jones grinned.
The defensive end just radiates ease. Most impressive is the way he earned a starting role in the Patriots defense, and how quickly he did it. He's had just one chance to show his stuff in the regular season and made the most of it.
Five tackles, a sack and a forced fumble. Not bad.
"I wouldn't jump to that statement right away, saying 'I belong in this league,'" Jones cautioned. "I feel like the sack was a great play, but anybody can get a great play in this game of football. Like I said, I have a lot of work to do. This was just Week 1 and we've got a lot of weeks to go."
Jones' production, however small a sample it may be, might seem to butt up against his rookie status. But those who've been paying attention know it's a continuation of the strong impression he made in the preseason.
He did smile when talking about the way he got after Jake Locker.
"It gave me a little bit of swagger, I'll say that."
But not too much.
"Being humble is key because nobody likes a cocky player at all. There's a big difference between being cocky and confident. It's good to be humble, but it's good to be confident at the same time."
Jones appears to be both. No matter how he looked last week in Tennessee, it won't mean a thing this Sunday against the Cardinals. He's focused on constantly improving at defensive end, working to better his run-stopping ability and pass rush.
So even though he may have the public speaking thing down.
"I have a lot of work to do. A lot of work to do."

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Four-player draft class an indication of Patriots confidence in roster

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Four-player draft class an indication of Patriots confidence in roster

FOXBORO -- The Patriots had only 50 to 75 players on their draft board. From that group they took only four this weekend: Youngstown State edge defender Derek Rivers, Troy tackle Antonio Garcia, Arkansas defensive end Deatrich Wise and UCLA tackle Conor McDermott. 

What are we to gather from that? Does that miniscule class -- the smallest in team history -- mean this was a particularly shallow pool of talent?

Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio seemed to indicate otherwise about a week before the draft during a press conference.

"Look, there's good football players top to bottom, I would say, across positions," he said."Our job is to find the ones that fit for us. The reality is, look, there are some players that fit. There’s some players that don’t. In the end, we end up with 50 to 75 players that we would draft from top to bottom. That’s a small number, but that’s where we end up."

That explanation seemed to be a sign that maybe Caserio, Bill Belichick and their staff felt as though there weren't many players in this class who could compete for spots on what was was a talent-laden roster well ahead of draft weekend. There were good players scattered throughout the class, as Caserio said, but maybe only 50 to 75 were good enough to challenge for jobs in New England.  

Boston Sports Tonight's Michael Holley -- whose book War Room followed closely the draft strategies of the Patriots, Chiefs and Falcons in 2011 -- said something interesting on CSN two weeks ago once Caserio let it be known that the Patriots draft board was looking relatively small. Holley believed the number of names on the draft board was a sign that the Patriots felt very good about their team before they were even on the clock to make a pick.

Because the Patriots will put names of their own players on their draft board, comparing them to potential draftees who might compete with them at a certain position, pegging only a limited number of players as "draftable" may mean that many of the veteran names already on the roster were unlikely to be leapfrogged by rookies.

It was an interesting point. In retrospect, it highlights the fact that this draft probably wasn't devoid of talent. But it may have been short on talent that could "fit" in New England -- or realistically make the 2017 Patriots. 

One area in the draft where the Patriots seemed to believe in its depth? Perhaps the team's most obvious area of need: Edge defender. 

The Patriots had just three established defensive ends on the roster going into the draft in Rob Ninkovich, Trey Flowers and Kony Ealy. Ninkovich, 33, is going into a contract season. Ealy is in the final year of his rookie deal and has never played a snap in New England. 

The Patriots had several options on the edge with their first pick at No. 72 overall. Kansas State's Jordan Willis, Texas A&M's Daeshon Hall, Alabama's Tim Williams, Auburn's Carl Lawson and Ohio's Tarell Basham were all on the board . . . yet they traded back. 

As ESPN's Mike Reiss suggested Sunday, that deal could have been the result of a player the Patriots liked -- like defensive end Dawuane Smoot of Illinois -- coming come off the board just before No. 72. Maybe they wanted to regroup and trade back to buy themselves time to make a choice they felt confident in.

But it also could have been a case where they had a handful of edge players on their board graded similarly, and they wanted to pick up some draft capital by moving down the board without sacrificing much in the way of talent. 

They ended up with Rivers, who some believe has the ability to be a top-end pass-rusher and would have been taken much higher had he played for a program in a power-five conference. Then they hung tight at No. 131 in the fourth round and found another added layer of depth for the edge in Wise, who in some ways looks like Chandler Jones when Jones was a rookie in 2012.

Whether or not the they thought of this year's draft as "deep" throughout? That's debatable. That they liked the look of their roster going into the weekend before making a pick is not.