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.
The receiver strapped Patriots released him before camp even started... there has to be some physical reason for that.
And poor Austin Collie, relegated to trying out for the Jets. (The Colts must feel there is no way they can trust him to stay healthy and don't want to go through another season of everyone holding their breathes every time he gets hit.)
I think he could be an instant upgrade in blocking and hands when compared to Brazil. Brazil had a higher ceiling imo, but I think he flushed his opportunity with the Colts down the toilet. He is also a very good gunner if I remember correctly. He could also contribute on ST...which no one seems to talk about. I would feel more comfortable with Jones being #4 than Whalen anyway...
It's an article link. The Colts brought Jones in for a workout. Here's the non-shortened link: http://www.coltsauthority.com/coltzilla-2011-archives/july/who-is-donald-jones.html
@indy_nick I like the physical promise as well – that's the biggest thing I missed when Garçon went to DC. He was a monster with and w/o the ball. Besides Reggie (who leaves it all out on the field), it seems like as a whole our WR group lacks some "physicality", as the talking heads would say.
@GoHorse88 Yessir. That's my lovely voice you get to hear.
@Payton Yeah, agreed, it can't hurt. At the same time, given the history I'd make sure that cutting ties would be as pain free as possible.
And with that, I just realized that I've surrendered to the cold-heartedness that is the NFL. It's a guy's career and (presumably) his love as well that we're talking about, but a franchise HAS to worry about the bottom line, and none of them can afford to pick up someone who could potentially end up not contributing. That's just how bottom-line the business is.
If the old management Colts could cut ties with Bob Sanders, Dwight Freeney, and Peyton F'ing Manning, they can choose to keep ties loose and severable with this fellow.
I feel bad talking so coldly about this - I could imagine how down a player would feel to read the opportunities arising in his chosen career being spoken of in such a fashion - but again: It's the bottom line nature of the NFL. If you can't produce due to injuries, and if your history shows that as a distinct possibility, then you won't be picked up for a roster spot. End of story, no matter how harsh that sounds. :(
@BrianKlass I still miss Gonzo. Many of us have forgotten that he at least measured faster than our yardstick for speed in the last few Super Bowl capable years: Pierre Garçon. And his hands were nowhere near as suspect. But yeah, stupid injuries derailed what was a promising career; I feel he'd still be around had it not been for all the injuries. I feel awful for him.
And yeah on Collie too. I'm just mad that he's basically been taken out of the NFL by a headhunting dirty player who's still playing.
ADD is sort of a fact of life for any professional sports fan. It's like "Here's a new player, the old player's been gone forever - 2 whole seasons - and HEYWAIT, LOOKAT THE KITTY!
But seriously, if Bobzilla could've had his whole career be like his 2007 Defensive PotY season, he'd be a Hall of Famer. I've never seen such a combination of guided missile and bulldozer before. Forget float like a butterfly and sting like a bee; Sanders flew like a jet and hit like a truck.
@Kyle Rodriguez @AJ_ @Paytonaw man, I miss old gonzo. He was one of those players that got hurt off something stupid, like an out of bounds hit in the back, and lost his job over it. Then Austin Collie started producing and I was like "Gonzo who?" Now I miss Collie. Kinda makes me sound like I have ADD...hey is that a quarter on the ground?