With a year of professional football under his belt, Redskins running back Matt Jones is much more confident in his abilities heading into Year Two.
It's not that Washington Redskins running back Matt Jones wasn't confident in his abilities last season; it's now to a point where Jones is much more aware of his role within Washington's offensive system.
"The team lifted me up, and knowing that I got an opportunity to be the starting back I do carry myself a little different, not in a cocky way, but in a more I improved way," Jones said. "I'm happy to be here, and I'm embracing everything about camp, and I'm loving the late night meetings."
What a difference a year has made in Jones' life.
"Last year I never was happy about sitting in meetings late, but now that you're learning so much in these meetings, I'm so happy to watch film, and get better each and every day," Jones said. "Then when I take it from the film room to practice, it means a lot to me. It means I'm getting better, and I'm making myself happy about myself."
"My approach changed big time, just knowing I got a bigger role in the offense, I mean that would change anybody's mindset, but knowing I got an opportunity to be the Washington Redskins starting running back is big, and it means a lot to me that the coaches trust me," Jones said. "They've seen the improvement I've done in the offseason coming into OTAs to now, coming all the way here to camp. They're trusting me, and I'm just taking a full head of steam right there, and I'm taking it down here to Richmond, and I'm trying to the best of my abilities."
It's a lot to ask of a then-22-year-old to come off the NFL Draft, take an enormous playbook, learn it, then execute it in practices and in high pressure situations on Sundays. That's what the Redskins asked of Jones in his rookie season.
Jones was point blank in his assessment of the difficulty of moving from the college level to the professional level.
"Last year I didn't know too much," Jones said. "I didn't know everybody on the team so it's hard as a rookie, because you don't know anyone, and you're trying to fit in and do your job. I just took it on the chin, and it's a rookie thing and everybody goes through it, and coming into this year I feel more confident. My offseason work ethic was great, so I feel confident being out here. I know everybody. I know where everything's at, and it's just a different approach, and it's my mindset that's helping me play better."
There's a lot of moving parts within a football team, with all pieces working together to make everyone better. In Jones case, someone who's been very influential in his progression is running backs coach Randy Jordan.
Check out behind the scenes images from Running Back, Matt Jones's 2016 Redskins Photo Shoot.
ordan's one of the biggest Jones' supporters, and he's not wasting his time helping the second-year Florida product, because he knows that if he can continue to work with Jones, and push him beyond his comfort level, he's got a potential star on his hands.
It also helps that Jordan's been where Jones is right now, having played in the NFL for nine seasons with the Oakland Raiders and Jacksonville Jaguars.
"It means a lot to me, because when you talk to Coach [Randy] Jordan, you tell him I want to make this cut a little faster, he can relate because he made this cut before in his career, and he ran the same type of plays that we ran," Jones said. "But they talked different back then, but when you're a running back you can relate to them better."
Jones has the proper body structure [6-foot-2, 232 pounds] to break to the outside of the tackles, or bust it through the seams in the middle of the offensive line, but combine that with Jones' ability to see, and anticipate what's going to happen on any given play, makes for a deadly running back, which he is turning into with each passing day.
"That's just from being a back," Jones said. "You're kind of gifted having vision, but at the same time you can be gifted, but some people go on film and they study the game. I'm blessed to have the great vision I have. I'm not the best, but I study film a lot too now, and that's the kind of difference between now and last year. I kind of know where the hole is going to hit, and when it's going to open up at, and you can expect it, and if it doesn't open up, you just got to look back and use your God [given] talents, and He'll take you wherever. Just studying the game more kind of helped me with that."
The arsenal of offensive weapons the Redskins will roll out this season is mind-boggling, even to Jones, who's one of those weapons. Jones says there's multiple ways Washington's offense can wear out defenses, which makes them even harder to gameplan for each week.
"We've got weapons, and it's great to have everyone healthy, and seeing our whole offense develop," Jones said. "If you stack the box against us, they are going to be licking their chops out there in the wide outs. If you over compensate there, then we are going to run the ball, and that's great. We got a quarterback there [Kirk Cousins] that wants to sling it, and he wants to hand it off, so I'm happy right here, and I'm happy I'm down in Richmond, and to be grinding with these boys. We've got a great opportunity to do great things."