In the coming weeks, Redskins Insider Tarik El-Bashir will take a look at the team’s rookies, grade their 2015 season and examine their future prospects.
Today, we’re evaluating running back Matt Jones.
Drafted: Third round (95th overall).
Stats: 490 yards rushing on 144 carries (3.4 yards per), 304 yards receiving, four combined touchdowns, four lost fumbles.
2015: There was a lot to like about Jones’ rookie season … but there are also a few areas of concern going forward.
Let’s start with the good. When the Florida product was on, he had some very strong performances, both carrying the ball and catching it. Jones was dominant against the Rams, rushing for 123 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries. He also came up huge against the Saints, hauling in three passes for 131 yards and a touchdown while rushing for 56 yards on 11 carries. Both performances came in critical home victories.
Now for the bad. In seven of the 13 games in which he played, Jones was limited to 2.8 yards per carry or fewer. For the season, his 3.4 yards per carry ranked last among 47 qualified players.
And, of course, there were the fumbles. He put the ball on the ground five times and ended up losing four of them. The only running back to lose more fumbles was Tampa Bay’s Doug Martin with five.
There were some injuries, too. Those aren’t the player’s fault, obviously, but availability is king in the NFL and Jones was unavailable for three regular season games and the Redskins’ Wild Card loss to the Packers due to toe and hip ailments, respectively.
With Alfred Morris scuffling for most of '15, Jones had an opportunity to seize the starting job. That didn't happen.
Future prospects: Jones has the physical tools to be a standout.
He possesses impressive size for a running back (6 foot 2, 231 pounds) and, at times, used that size quite effectively. He proved to be reliable pass catcher despite catching only a few balls in college. And he showed that he's got the ability to run over defenders as well as make them miss. (Remember the screen pass he took 78 yards for a touchdown against New Orleans?)
But he's got some work to do if hopes to be the No. 1 running back that Jay Gruden and Co. hope he'll eventually become.
His first priority this offseason has to be better ball security. You can see a bit of a silver lining in that he only lost one fumble in his final six games after losing three in his first seven. But he's going to be known as a player afflicted fumble-itis until he proves that he's cured.
Jones also must take better care of his body. He acknowledged to me on locker clear out day that he learned late in the season just how important it is to spend ample time in the training room—even when you’re not hurt.
Again, Jones has all the pieces to be the Redskins’ starter next season. But now he's got to put it all together.
Previous rookie reviews: