RICHMOND—Coaches don’t expect rookies to be perfect. But they do expect them to listen to what they say. It looks like Matt Jones is listening to his coaches.
During OTAs, when the players were not wearing any pads, Jones was being too physical, lowering his shoulder to finish off runs. Gruden said that they asked him to ease off, concerned that the 6-2, 231-lb. back would injure some defenders. Jones eased off and there were no injury issues during the offseason program.
When they arrived in Richmond for practice in pads, Gruden became concerned that Jones was maintaining his habits and being soft at the end of his runs.
“Randy [Jordan] and Scot [McCloughan] and myself, he's been challenged a little bit to finish some runs,” Gruden said on Friday. “A lot of the times in these practices you're not sure how to finish runs, but we want him to finish violently. That's what type of guy he is and he did that today, so I was excited to see Matt.”
What did Jones do that was so exciting on Friday? During the joint practice against the Texans, he rolled around the left end and headed up the sideline. Cornerback Kevin Johnson, Houston’s first-round draft pick, tried to stop him. Jones is three inches taller and about 45 pounds. The result was predictable and it was captured here:
Jones’ run drew hoots and hollers from the Redskins along the sideline, from both offensive and defensive players.
Mowing over Johnson wasn’t the only good play Jones made on Friday.
“He had a couple of really good cuts in the hole, unblocked,” said Gruden. “We had a poor assignment on a defensive end. We didn't block him and he made him miss in the hole. He made a great positive run in one of the run periods. He had a much better day today than he did yesterday.”
Jones’ style hasn’t drawn universal acclaim. Early in camp it seemed like the defenders were delivering some extra licks on Jones, perhaps in part to welcome the rookie to the NFL and in part to deliver some payback for the no-pads blows that Jones delivered in the spring. They run that de-cleated Johnson may have precipitated the brawl that took place at yesterday’s practice with the Texans.
If Jones keeps up the physical style during preseason games and when Week 1 comes around it will be difficult to keep him off of the field.