FAIRHOPE, Ala. — Alabama cornerback Cyrus Jones doesn’t mind being on the proverbial “island” at the Senior Bowl.
In fact, Jones prefers having the weight of the world on his shoulders, defensively speaking, when matched up against taller and heftier receivers on one half of the playing field, with little safety help in the offing.
“I’m more comfortable on the outside, just because it’s what I’ve done for most of my career,” said Jones on Tuesday, just moments after matching playmaking wits with receivers Jay Lee (Baylor), Sterling Shepard (Oklahoma), K.J. Maye (Minnesota), Paul McRoberts (Southeast Missouri State) and UGA’s Malcolm Mitchell during the South squad’s practice at Fairhope Municipal Stadium.
During simple warmups, Jones (5-foot-10, 196 pounds) doesn’t necessarily bear the look of a three-down cornerback at the NFL level. But during the one-on-one drills and 11-on-11 live scrimmaging, it was extremely rare to see a play develop on Jones’ end … without the Baltimore, Md. native closing on the ball with top-end speed.
“I’m excited to come out here and compete,” says Jones, before nonchalantly adding, “and not get burned on any big plays.”
For the record, Jones didn’t get torched for any reception beyond 12 yards during Tuesday’s workout; and every short reception was the byproduct of loose coverage on the defense’s end.
But if Jones — who broke open the Mississippi State game in November with a 69-yard punt-return touchdown — had his druthers, he’d favor a “press coverage” system, something out of the old defensive playbook of the go-for-broke Oakland Raiders.
“All we do is press coverage at Alabama,” says Jones, still riding high from the Crimson Tide’s national-title victory over Clemson from 15 days ago (Jan. 11). “That’s where I operate best.”
Of course, there might be one drawback to Jones enduring Alabama’s extended championship run: It prompted a late start in his quest to get into NFL combine shape.
But Jones is quick to dismiss these thoughts for more than a second or two. Within his rationale, “island” guys are always ready for action.
“Actually, I’m at an advantage (at the Senior Bowl),” says Jones, who tallied seven career interceptions at Alabama. “Because I’ve been playing actual football (through mid-January)” — instead of training for the NFL draft in New Jersey — “I’m a little more (football) fresher than these guys. I can bounce back (quicker).”