As we move across the skill positions in our annual AFC South position rankings, we come to the wide…
Both Hands of Matt Jones
Brendan Sonnone's Take
Matt Jones has obviously had his ups and downs while at Jacksonville. For every spectacular one-handed catch Jones has made, there has been an easy drop or a poorly ran route to go with it. I can certainly understand people calling for Jones' head, as his superb talent blended with his poor effort is nearly criminal. However, before sending Jones to the chopping block, we need to look at every aspect of the situation. Has Jones shown a bad attitude and poor effort at times? Undoubtedly yes, but I personally feel that he needs to be given one more chance before you give him the ax.
Traditionally, it takes a wide receiver three years in the NFL to pick up on the subtle nuances of the position, and as a former quarterback who never played receiver before, Jones has just played the position for three seasons. In order to see if he can make the full transition, it would be wise to give him one more season to gather some experience and see if he can grow into the player the Jaguars thought they were getting when they selected him in the first-round.
Aside from him needing one more year of experience, Jacksonville is also short of red-zone targets this year after letting Ernest Wilford go. At 6'6", 240 lbs, Jones is the only Jacksonville receiver big enough (aside from Reggie Williams) to be a target in the end-zone. Jones doesn't like crossing the middle and isn't a polished route runner, but there is one thing he can do and that is make plays inside the 20. With just Williams showing the size to handle that role, and Marcedes Lewis not establishing himself yet as a stellar target in the red-zone, Jones is one of just a couple of Jaguars who can act as a jump-ball type of receiver, which every team needs.
I am not defending Jones because his lack of desire has been extremely frustrating over the past couple of seasons, and it is clear that he wants out of Jacksonville. That being said, the Jaguars now seem to have enough speed at the receiver position after bringing in Jerry Porter and they are now lacking a big, playmaking type of receiver aside from Williams. Jones can excel at that role this season and could use one more year to reach his full potential. If he doesn't, cut him after the season, but Jones currently fills a void for the Jaguars and his ability to make big plays will always be an asset to the team.
Charlie Bernstein's Take
I agree that Matt Jones is a supremely talented athlete, but how much longer will the Jaguars have to nurse a project type of player who desperately wants out of teal? Jones is the ultimate tease in which he'll make a highlight film type of catch, them drop an easy pass because a defender was five yards away closing in.
It was understandable why the Jaguars continued to let Jones play out each of his "nine lives" in the past, being that there just weren't any better options on the roster. Was the team supposed to cut the former first-round pick for the likes of Cortez Hankton, Charles Sharon, or D'Juan Woods? Of course not.
It's a different situation now. The team has Jerry Porter as a number one guy, as well as Reggie Williams, who certainly showed more effort than Jones has at similar stages of their careers. Throw in promising youngsters Mike Walker and John Broussard, veteran Dennis Northcutt, and the Jaguars seem to have a full allotment of wide receivers who play and practice like they actually give a damn. I haven't even mentioned another former first-round project Troy Williamson, who has as much, if not more ability than Jones, and is more than happy to have a second-chance at life in the NFL.
The real question is, when are you going to admit you made a mistake? The Jaguars did it last year when they released quarterback Byron Leftwich, and it's time they did the same with Matt Jones. If they keep him on the roster, the odds of him changing his entire work ethic and personality are slim, and although you may receive a few highlight reel type of catches, there are going to be plenty more plays where he gives up and doesn't attempt to block. Why take valuable reps from guys who care enough to give 100% in practice by keeping around a guy who doesn't want to be on the team?