Jay Gruden says the team plans to work with running back Matt Jones as he struggles to overcome a fumbling problem. But, the Redskins coach noted, there are limits to their patience.
“He’s a talented kid, man,” Gruden said on Monday, a day after Jones fumbled for the fourth time on 104 touches this season. Only Adrian Peterson has fumbled more times (5), but it's important to point out that the Vikings’ star has twice as many touches (229).
“Like I said, a lot of them—I think like three of them—were non-contact fumbles,” Gruden added. “He’s trying to gain the extra yard, stick the ball out. [Against the Panthers] he was hurdling the pile and it just barely got poked out.”
Jones’ fumble Sunday was a costly one.
Midway through the second quarter—with the Panthers leading 21-14—Jones attempted to leap over a defender when Carolina linebacker Luke Kuechly hit him from the side and jarred the ball loose. The Panthers’ offense, meanwhile, quickly parlayed the turnover into a 14-point lead.
“I think it’s just a matter of him continuing to focus more on the ball pre-contact, also when there is contact,” Gruden said. “That’s something Randy Jordan does every day in individual [drills]. He spends the first part of individual every day working on ball security drills, and we’ll continue to work on it.”
The Redskins spent a third round pick on Jones, who has flashed his potential as a ball carrier and as a pass catcher, in the hopes he'd eventually ascend to the starting role. The fumbles, however, have prevented that from happening. And, if he’s not careful, they could end up costing him a lot more.
“He’s got to understand as a running back in the National Football League, once you have this M.O., the only way to shake it is to protect the ball,” Gruden said. “If you don’t protect the ball then you won’t be a running back in the NFL for very long. We have total faith in him that he’s going to fix this but he has to himself make sure he understands the importance of the ball. All running backs do.”
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