Conventional wisdom says Matt Jones is just another camp body in a crowded running backs room.
Maybe he’s more than that.
Eagles head coach Doug Pederson hinted Friday the Eagles may have bigger plans than expected for Jones, who’s trying to revive his career with his third team in three years.
He went as far as saying he envisions Jay Ajayi and Jones forming a similar 1-2 running back attack as LeGarrette Blount and Ajayi did during the second half of the Super Bowl season.
“I don’t want to compare LeGarrette and Jay,” Pederson said. “But that type of dynamic, with his experience and what he brings to us.”
Blount rushed for 766 yards and a 4.4 average during the regular season last year and was 14 for 90 rushing in the Super Bowl win over the Patriots. He signed a one-year contract with the Lions in March.
Ajayi ran for 408 yards in seven games with the Eagles after coming over in a mid-season trade from the Dolphins and 184 more in the postseason and projects as the Eagles’ lead back in 2018.
Jones had just five carries for 14 yards last year during his one season with the Colts but averaged 4.7 yards per carry for the Redskins in 2016, including a 135-yard game against the Eagles at FedEx Field.
He hurt his knee the next week in a game in Detroit and didn’t play again for the Redskins, even when he was healthy.
Jones’ biggest issue has been fumbles.
He fumbled five times on 163 touches in 2015 and three times on 107 touches last year. That’s one fumble every 34 offensive touches.
For the sake of comparison, Blount has fumbled once every 82 touches in his career and LeSean McCoy once every 119 touches.
Jones was one of only two NFL running backs with fewer than 300 touches over the 2016 and 2017 seasons combined to fumble at least eight times. The other was Bobby Rainey.
But the Eagles are enamored of Jones’ ability. His 4.7 average ranked 11th in the NFL in 2016 before he got hurt.
And he’s the only player to rush for at least 130 yards against the Eagles over the last three years.
Where does he fit in? The Eagles have a ton of running backs on the roster.
Corey Clement was a Super Bowl star but only had 85 carries last year. Wendell Smallwood has shown flashes but can’t stay healthy. Donnel Pumphrey was a fourth-round pick but had a terrible training camp and never got on the field. Darren Sproles re-signed with the Eagles but he’s coming off an ACL injury. Even Ajayi has been dogged by sore knees, and his contract is up after this year.
Jones, originally a third-round pick out of Florida, is only 25 years old and judging from the way Pederson spoke about him Friday, he just may have a significant role in the running back rotation moving forward.
“Added depth, added competition,” Pederson said. “Obviously, Sproles’ [health] situation right now, it just gives us depth there.
“Jay’s a guy going forward I want to make sure he’s 100 percent, he’s ready for the regular season and all those types of things down the road, so Matt gives us that depth and competition, and I’m excited for him to get into that mix too.”