The last time Matt Jones donned a helmet and pads in Philadelphia, he was enjoying a career game against the Eagles — a fact not lost on his new team.
“When I did my workout, I had some of the defensive coaches tell me I owed them something or they remembered that game,” Jones said Tuesday. “Everybody remembers that game here. Some of the same guys on defense are still in here, too.”
Not only were Jones’ 135 yards rushing and 8.4 yards per carry personal bests, but the performance keyed Washington to a 27-20 victory in 2016.
As it turns out, that game would serve as an audition of sorts.
“I know that wasn’t overlooked,” said Jones, who signed a two-year contract with the Eagles.
In one and a half seasons since, Jones has recorded just 15 touches in the NFL. He suffered a knee injury the following week, was released by Washington last September and then claimed by the Colts, where he failed to crack the RB rotation.
But while Jones may have fallen off the map, the Eagles never forgot the vision of him rumbling through their defense. The club maintained an interest in the running back ever since.
“It’s been trying to happen for a while,” Jones said. “I was claimed by waivers from the Colts, but [the Eagles] were trying to claim me too.
“I’m finally here and I thank [Howie Roseman] for giving me a chance to come prove myself.”
Jones should have no problem acclimating to the locker room. He professed the Eagles were his favorite team growing up. A third-round pick from Florida, he and fellow running back Jay Ajayi already know each other as members of the 2015 draft class. Jones even became friends with Brandon Graham as well, sharing how the Redskins used to scheme against the DE.
Perhaps most important, Jones has taken a liking to running backs coach Duce Staley, who wants to see Jones get back to running the way he did that day against the Eagles.
“He humbled me a lot about getting my pads down and just getting back to where I was,” Jones said. “Duce is a great coach. He makes you better. The first day I met him, he made me better.
“Just telling me little stuff I never heard before as far as pass blocking, running, everything. He was a running back, too, so he relates to running backs in different ways. I dropped a couple pounds and I was ready to go.”
It’s unclear exactly why Jones fell out of favor in Washington, where he rushed for 964 yards and six touchdowns in two seasons, then Indianapolis, but he attributed both exits to different sets of circumstances.
Fumbles were an issue in Washington. He racked up eight in his first 20 NFL games, though it seems he was overtaken on the depth chart after his injury.
“Just bumps in the road,” he said. “Some things I could’ve fixed. Everything was great. I just have to figure out what went wrong and try to bounce back.”
Jones was with the Colts until May but was cut loose after the team used fourth- and fifth-round picks on RBs.
“It was weird,” Jones said. “It felt great over there. I was in tip-top shape. I guess they just wanted to go a different route.”
Despite the way his career has unfolded, he's upbeat and determined to learn from every experience.
“It’s been a bumpy road, man,” Jones said. “Hard, but I’ll take the good and the bad. From here, I just want to work. This is a big opportunity for me. It’s been up and down, but I’m thankful for it all.”