FOXBOROUGH — Chandler Jones played like a first-rounder in his first game, forcing a fumble on a sack of Titans quarterback Jake Locker, which fellow rookie Dont’a Hightower returned for a Patriots touchdown.
Perhaps as a preemptive ploy to rein his rookies in, coach Bill Belichick said they, more than anyone else, need to keep learning the NFL game to keep succeeding. Jones said the strip-sack score was nice, but he gets his coach’s message, loud and clear.
“[The sack] gave me a little swagger, I’ll say, but I have a lot of work to do, a lot of work,” Jones said. “All around. That’s being a balanced defensive end, stopping the run, being a pass rusher.”
Jones probably couldn’t have asked for a better game to give him confidence heading into Sunday’s home opener against Arizona. Five tackles against the Titans, including the sack, won’t leave him cocky, though.
“Being humble is key. No one likes a cocky player, but there’s a big difference between being cocky and being confident,” Jones said. “It’s good to be humble, but it’s good to be confident at the same time.”
Ready for anything
Arizona quarterback John Skelton sprained his ankle in Sunday’s win against Seattle and has not practiced this week. He is doubtful to play, meaning Kevin Kolb, who led the Cardinals on a late winning touchdown drive, will likely get the start.
The Patriots have spent this week preparing for two quarterbacks, not one.
“With Skelton’s injury early on, we kind of already knew it was going to be Kevin, but it doesn’t make it any easier,” cornerback Kyle Arrington said. “They’re a dangerous team. He’s an accurate guy.”
Said fellow cornerback Devin McCourty: “We know, especially when Kolb is in there, he’s a guy that’s mobile and can get outside the pocket and a lot of times when he gets outside the pocket he does good things. We’ve got to try to contain him and make plays when we can.”
In his own way
One more catch by Wes Welker — his 558th — will make him the franchise leader, breaking a tie with Troy Brown. Welker has caught at least one pass in all 85 games he’s played with the Patriots (playoffs included), so it’s a safe bet he’ll set the mark against the Cardinals.
Brown will be inducted into the Patriots Hall of Fame Saturday. The two popular receivers, teammates for only one season (2007), will likely be linked again this weekend.
“I’m not trying to think about it too much,” Welker said of the impending record. “Troy was such a great player here for such a long time, done so many great things here and has really opened up things for the position that I now play that was his. He created so many opportunities for me.”
Bumps and bruises
The Patriots’ injury report did not change from Thursday, with a second straight day of perfect attendance at practice. Seven players were limited Friday and are questionable: offensive linemen Dan Connolly (head), Sebastian Vollmer (back), and Nick McDonald (shoulder), cornerbacks Alfonzo Dennard (hamstring) and Sterling Moore (knee), tight end Daniel Fells (shin), and running back Shane Vereen (foot). Three Cardinals were limited at practice and are questionable: safety Rashad Johnson (thigh), cornerback Patrick Peterson (groin), and strong safety Adrian Wilson (ankle) . . . Brown’s induction ceremony begins at 5 p.m. at the Hall at Patriot Place, and is free and open to the public . . . The Patriots will look to extend their league-best win streak in home openers to 11. They’ve never lost a home opener at Gillette Stadium . . . The last time the Patriots and Cardinals met was in 2008, a 47-7 home win by New England. What does Welker remember about it? “Here, snow game,” he said . . . The Cardinals went to the Super Bowl in the 2008 season, when Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski was playing college ball at the University of Arizona. Did he follow those Cardinals? “A little bit,” he said. “With the Cardinals right there that’s all you heard about. That was a while ago, now I’m playing them, so I’m focused on them.”