ALAMEDA -- Zay Jones was an active, engaged member of the Buffalo Bills offense this season, until a Week 5 contest against the Titans. The third-year receiver barely left the sideline that day in Nashville, a setback he considered temporary.
Jones had no idea that would be the last time he suited up for the team that drafted him. The East Carolina product was blindsided by the trade that sent him to the Raiders for a 2021 fifth-round NFL draft pick.
“I was shocked. I didn’t know it was coming,” Jones said. “I didn’t ask to be out of Buffalo, but it’s something that transpired. That’s the nature of the business. I wish those guys the best. I’m happy to be in this locker room and part of a team that really wanted me.”
Make no mistake: The Raiders need Jones to contribute as soon as humanly possible.
The Raiders receiving corps is an offensive weak link, with Tyrell Williams banged up and J.J. Nelson and Ryan Grant cut over injury, effectiveness or both. Williams is the only legitimate, established threat in the group, which has struggled to make dynamic plays downfield.
General manager Mike Mayock was a big Jones fan before the 2017 draft and said so as NFL Network’s premier draft analyst. Jones hasn’t lived up to his second-round draft status, with ho-hum numbers and just a 50 percent completion rate when targeted.
He had a solid year in 2018, with 652 yards and seven touchdowns on 56 catches. But he was targeted just 16 times in five games this season, showing the Bills considered him expendable. The Raiders need him right away and are pushing to prepare him as fast as possible.
Raiders coach Jon Gruden spent his bye week helping prepare Jones, who admittedly had his head spinning during this crash course in a complicated scheme.
“We hit the playbook pretty hard, trying to get me up to speed,” Jones said. “The offense is very complex. There’s a lot that goes into it. Some guys have been here since camp and I’ve been here for a few days. I’m trying to catch up as fast as I can.
“There are some situations where the head spins, but I think I’m getting it down. I just have to keep pressing, stay in the playbook and get to know the quarterbacks.”
Monday’s practice was the first working with Derek Carr and applying what he learned last week.
“I’m still evaluating the team and see how we operate,” Jones said. “I’m just going to control what I can and prepare like crazy to play the Green Bay Packers. It’s a day by day process, and this is Day 1 for me. I think it was trending in the right direction in terms of understanding everything. When the bullets are flying, it’s so much different than it looks on paper.
“…Each quarterback is different in terms of how they speak and their terminology, what they want and expect and how they throw the football. I was just talking with Derek earlier about what he wants and how he operates. It seems like he’s an unbelievable person. It’s about getting with him and understanding his timing. We’ll get that down and go from there.”
Carr will be the best quarterback Jones has worked with, as he tries to spark his career just over halfway through his rookie contract.
“I’m coming into a situation where this is a good football team already,” Jones said. “To be just a small piece of it is an honor and a blessing.
“I’m going to give this team everything I have. I’m a playmaker. I’ve made plays in my career. I have put that on tape. Hopefully I can continue to keep making plays for this football team and get them to where they want to be.”