FOXBORO, Mass. — This was not the game Matt Jones wanted, and it’s not the game he could afford to have if he’s going to make the Eagles’ 53-man roster.
Playing in his first game this preseason, Jones ran six times for 19 yards Thursday night against the Patriots and dropped three passes, one of which was picked off by Christian Sam off his hands.
Not an auspicious debut for the former Redskin and Colt.
“I don’t want to put anything like that on film,” he said at his locker after the Eagles lost to the Patriots, 37-20, at Gillette Stadium. “Just lack of focus because of fatigue and just not locking in and watching the ball through.
“Don’t want to get down on myself because I know I can catch the ball. … I know I’m a better player than that and I’m going to prove it.”
Jones didn’t play in the opener, and with Donnel Pumphrey and Josh Adams both out Thursday night and Wendell Smallwood not doing anything to help himself, this was his chance to make a statement.
Jones was among the NFL’s leading rushers the first half of 2016. He even had a 135-yard game against the Eagles. So he should be able to dominate against some of the second- and third-stringers he faced Thursday night.
But he didn’t come close to dominating.
“Big learning experience for me about what I need to get done, what I need to do, what I need to work on,” Jones said.
“I got a lot of reps on special teams, a lot of reps on offense, need to watch the film and really study myself. There was a lot on my plate tonight, we have some backs down tonight, I just had to suck it up.
“I’m close to where I want to be. I’m real close. I need to clean up the little stuff, there’s some stuff I need to fix."
Smallwood finished with four carries of one yard rushing, so he didn’t help himself much either.
Right now, there are four running backs competing for one possible fourth spot behind Jay Ajayi, Corey Clement and Darren Sproles, and none of the four has claimed the spot.
You would think Jones, with his resume, would have. But this wasn’t the start he needed.
"I think [Jones and Smallwood] would agree that there were plays left out on the field tonight,” Doug Pederson said. “And something we got to clean up and keep working. You know, it’s a great battle between those two and we have a couple weeks left before we make these tough decisions.”
Jones said he felt terrible about his drops Thursday night, especially the one that turned into an interception from Nate Sudfeld. He said he'll do more sprints after practice to get his wind up so he can get through a full game playing teams and offense.
“Playing offense and special teams, I’m not used to that, and it was something really challenging for me," he said. "But I’m going to bounce back next week and really hone in on it. It’s something I’ve never really done before, now I just have to step up to the challenge and be ready.”
Jones and Sudfeld were teammates with the Redskins in 2016, so they go back a few years.
“He’s a guy who really believes in me and I believe in him so every time I’m on the field I try to give him my all,” he said.
“So with the drops, I feel like I owe him a couple. I’ll make sure I make up for those next game.”