Jack Jones staring down Patrick Mahomes as the cornerback sprinted towards the end zone and past the quarterback for 33-yard pick six was pure unadulterated swagger. That kind of bluster hasn’t been a common sight for the Las Vegas Raiders defense.
And the cornerback is bringing it large to the Silver & Black.
Jones’ takeaway and touchdown exemplified the “Enough is enough” mantra interim head coach Antonio Pierce spoke about before his Raiders’ Week 16 matchup with the host Kansas City Chiefs. For too long, Mahomes, Andy Reid, and the rest of the Chiefs have toyed around with the Raiders and the rest of the AFC West. In fact, the Chiefs won six straight games against the Raiders making it a very one-sided “rivalry”.
Jones, who doesn’t lack confidence, was braggadocios leading into the game dropping bulletin-board type material during locker room media access.
“We’re not worried about them,” Jones said, “It’s Patrick Mahomes we’ve got to stop. You stop the magician, then the act is over.”
Oh, there was Christmas magic alright.
It was Jones reaching into his top hat and pulling out six points after reading Mahomes like a book. Hence why Jones gave Mahomes the death stare as he knew Kansas City’s signal caller couldn’t stop him from scoring. The swagger is one thing, but watch Jones on the pick. The 5-foot-11 and 175-pound 26-year-old displayed lightning quick read and react skills — something Raiders defensive coordinator Patrick Graham values like gold and expects from all his defenders — displaying the fluid hips, speed, and hands to come away with the ball and score.
It’s not often a team can have a late-addition difference maker and Jones is one of them. (Veteran quarterback Joe Flacco is the other for the Cleveland Browns). Pierce and interim general manager Champ Kelly welcomed Jones with open arms after the New England Patriots waived the second-year corner out of Arizona State. Of course it helps Pierce is very familiar with Jones dating back to the cornerback’s prep days in Long Beach, Calif. and in college. If there was one coach to take the flier on Jones, it was Pierce.
And the move is paying dividends for all parties involved in Las Vegas.
Jones is flourishing in the Raiders system with interceptions returned for a touchdown in back-to-back games — he has 20 total tackles, one stop for loss, and three pass deflections in the five game she’s played in Silver & Black. Pierce is validated for his belief in Jones, Kelly gets kudos for adding the thief of a defensive back, and Las Vegas finally frustrated and made Kansas City feel lowly.
“When they start breaking down from the inside out, then we got them,” Jones said in the postgame locker room availability after the 20-14 win over the Chiefs. “Once we saw Mahomes getting heated or (tight end Travis) Kelce throwing his helmet, we were like, ‘We got ’em right where we want ’em. Keep stepping on their neck.’”
The Raiders did showcase a physical style that wore the Chiefs down, and despite being sleight of frame at 175 pounds, Jones doesn’t shy away from being a willing tackler. He’s eager to mix it up in run support and has the same quick reaction in terms of bringing down ball carriers — receivers or tailbacks — as he does in coverage.
“We knew what type of game this was going to be, so we said we’ve got to come out physical, we got to come out hitting, and they got to feel us every play,” Jones said.
Pierce has said the same thing numerous times in interviews and it’s no wonder Jones was claimed as soon as he got his walking papers from New England. Pierce has been there for Jones during his highs and lows in high school and college and is likely the best person to keep the talented defender on the straight and narrow in the pros.
“Coach AP allows everyone out there to be themselves, and play football and have love for the game,” Jones said. “When you have a coach that’s, ‘Don’t do this’ and is kind of strict, it takes the fun out of the game. We’re professional athletes, we’ve been doing this for however many years and we understand the do’s and don’ts. Coach AP allows us to play and you can see it through the team. It’s noticeable.”
The confidence permeating across Las Vegas’ secondary is very noticeable, too. Jones is amplifying the swagger that fellow cornerbacks Amik Robertson and Nate Hobbs brings to the mix. Safeties Tre’Von Moehrig and Marcus Epps bring their own quiet confidence to the table, too.
“Man, I mean, it’s a bunch of dogs out there. When you have some dogs, whether you’re young, old or in between, it kind of doesn’t matter. You got to just turn it on,” Raiders wide receiver Davante Adams said of the team’s cornerbacks. “And as long as you’re confident out there, flying around and playing that position; I mean, other than quarterback, that’s probably the most difficult position to play out there. So, proud of those guys and the way they’ve been flying around, tackling, catching the ball and scoring touchdowns helping us out too. So, we all work this thing together.”
Jones has two more games this season to stack on an impressive late-season run he’s had in Silver & Black. First up is this Sunday’s date at the Indianapolis Colts (8-7) and a regular season home finale against the Denver Broncos. But he’s flashed No. 1 cornerback ability and his rookie deal after being a fourth round pick by the Patriots in 2022 transfers over on the waiver claim which means he’s under contract with Las Vegas through the 2025 season.