With Matt Jones currently pegged to be the Redskins' starting running back in 2016, the second-year Florida product must improve on his ball security to take his game to the next level.
The intent is for Matt Jones to take over as the Washington Redskins' primary running back in 2016, but the second-year Florida product knows he needs to show an increased awareness with his ball security if he wants to stay the team's No. 1 running back.
During his rookie season in 2015, Jones flashed capabilities of carrying the full load, even with incumbent starter Alfred Morris still in town. But the running back struggled with keeping hold of the ball as he fumbled it five times, tied for second most in the NFL.
In the Redskins' Week 3 loss to the New York Giants, Jones had perhaps his most troubling fumble of the season, as he let the ball slip out of his possession as he was trying to leap for the end zone. The result was a touchback and Washington's only turnover in the red zone all season.
With a full offseason to work on his craft and coaches having the opportunity to sharpen his technique, the hope is that ball security will no longer be an issue for Jones and really all of the Redskins running backs.
"Well the first thing is, No. 1, is that this ball draws a lot of attention, and I always tell them, when you get an opportunity to carry the ball, have a high respect for the football," Redskins running backs coach Randy Jordan told host Larry Michael on "Redskins Nation." "There's a lot of plays that could be called, so first of all it's the mindset. Once you have this ball don't let anybody else take it from you and what we talk about, and if you look at the shape – I know I'm getting a little bit long here, but I want to make sure that people understand – to carry this ball, it can go anywhere. If it hits the ground, everybody talks about the bounce of the ball, we talk about five points of pressure, we talk about claw grip, split finger grip, we always talk about the hand in terms of that's where it starts with, that's the pressure point."
The running backs must make sure the ball is high and tight with the elbow tucked.
Check out the top photos of Matt Jones from the 2015 season.
"Then we talk about the bicep, okay so that ball is high and tight, now the key is we talk about crossing the 'T,'" Jordan said. "And in contact I don't talk about going through the hole with one hand, we say 'one-hand to two hands through.' …We talk about high and tight, wrist, then we talk about pad level, don't get exposed to get holes, that what I tell them. You want pads over the thigh boards and so when they're hitting they don't have a clean shot on the ball."
In his first season with the Redskins, Jones appeared in 339 offensive snaps, accumulating 144 carries with 490 yards and three touchdowns along with 19 receptions for 304 yards which includes his 78-yard touchdown reception against the New Orleans Saints.
As he gets more into a flow this season, Redskins head coach Jay Gruden believes the biggest aspect for Jones' ability to keep possession of the football will be when he's "outside away from traffic."
"When he's in traffic, he protects it pretty well, it's when he gets outside he gets a little bit loose with it and the guys that he doesn't see are the ones that pokes it away," Gruden said. "So he's just got to be more secure with the ball all the time, not just when he's in traffic."