With LaVon Brazill being unavailable for the first four weeks of the season, and little experience existing behind the trio of Reggie Wayne, Darrius Heyward-Bey and T.Y. Hilton, the Colts are looking to improve their wide receiver depth. Griff Whalen and Nathan Palmer looked to be the front-runners for the fourth and fifth spots heading into camp, but Jones has more experience than both.
So who is this wide receiver that the Patriots, with all their problems in the receiving department, released with little explanation? Does he have a place on the Colts' roster?
To start, let's see the basics. Jones is a 6', 210 pound wide receiver out of Youngstown State University, where he caught 77 balls for 790 yards and six touchdowns in the Penguin's run-first offense.
Jones was known for his fluid route-running and strong hands coming into the draft in 2010. He did not get drafted, but was signed by the Bills as a UDFA and worked his way onto the roster as a depth wide receiver. He's worked his way up since, gaining more targets each year, culminating in a 41-catch, 443-yard season with four touchdowns as a starter in 2012.
While he doesn't have elite speed, his 4.46 40 time is fast enough to be able to take short passes the distance, like he did against New England last season
But while Jones has the ability to occasionally make the big play, where he's made his money so far in his career is as a possession receiver.
Jones was rarely targeted down the field last year, catching zero passes past 20 yards downfield on eight targets. Now, in fairness, Ryan Fitzpatrick hasn't been a very good downfield passer; in fact, his accuracy percentage of just 27.5% on passes 20+ yards down field was second lowest in the league last year, beating out only Christian Ponder.
But, Jones' strength isn't his speed or being a downfield threat. Rather, Jones uses his route-running and physicality to get open in short-to-intermediate zones. Former teammate Stevie Johnson mentioned this about Jones in an interview this past April:
And he’s strong. If you see him, he’s about 215 (pounds). He’s like a running back playing receiver. And he’s physical. So him getting one-on-one coverage in the slot, or even on the outside, he’s going to dominate.
When he was heading into the draft, Jones was interviewed and asked to compare himself to a current wide receiver. He chose Anquan Boldin, the notoriously physical possession receiver now with the San Francisco 49ers.
Well, the film revealed a bit of Boldin in Jones, specifically in this play.
Now, it's not all good when it comes to Jones. He's generally gotten poor reviews since his time with the Bills. He finished with a -2.3 grade from PFF in receiving, although he finished witha +1.9 overall due to strong blocking and drawing pass interference penalties. Jones also finished with a -6.6% DVOA and a drop rate of 12.77% (68th in the league, although still better than Hilton, Avery and Brazill last season).
Jones has also struggled with injuries, never fully finishing a 16-game season. He struggled with calf injuries last season at times, and was eventually put on IR due to an unknown illness. Jones has stressed that the unknown ailment is not career-threatening in any way and does not affect his play on the field, but it's certainly something to keep an eye on. Jones was working with the first team in New England before getting released, so the reason very well could be medical.
Nevertheless, Jones is worth a look and a tryout. If he's healthy, he should be able to raise the level of competition in camp at the very least.
If Jones was to come to Indianapolis, it would likely be to compete for a slot/possession role. His biggest competitor? Griff Whalen.