The Washington Redskins have found themselves a bruiser in running back Matt Jones, who was the team’s third-round selection out of Florida in the 2015 NFL draft. The 6’2”, 231-pound runner is a dark-horse candidate for this year’s Offensive Rookie of the Year honors.
Jones will be sharing carries with incumbent runner Alfred Morris behind an improved Redskins offensive line in 2015, and Jones’ downhill running style should complement Morris’ polished abilities nicely.
As can be seen in this YouTube highlight from his freshman year, Jones can not only run powerfully but also put a move on a defender:
Statistically speaking, however, Jones’ collegiate career at Florida wasn’t outstanding—2014 was his best season, as he compiled 817 yards on 166 carries and scored six touchdowns. He averaged just less than five yards per carry last season and only played in 26 total games in college.
But sometimes NFL organizations take players based on upside and scheme fit. The Redskins look to be a far more physical team than they’ve been in recent years after adding monster offensive linemen Brandon Scherff (6’5”, 319 pounds) and Arie Kouandjio (6’5”, 310 pounds), who were also acquired through the draft. Washington’s offensive line is set to play smashmouth football in 2015, and Jones’ build and running style make him an instant fit —on paper, at least.
Early reports out of last week’s training camp had said that Jones wasn’t finishing runs the way head coach Jay Gruden wants him to. Gruden pointed to the natural transition from college to the pros as a reason for this in a a recent interview with Mike Jones of the Washington Post.
“That’s probably how they did it in college, and he’s thinking that he gets five, six yards and he’s done for the day,” Gruden said in the interview. “But we want him to finish the runs.”
Gruden got his wish as the week of practice rolled on, according to the article. Mike Jones went on to write that the former Gator battled through tackles and “looked more sure of himself” toward the end of the week.
Jones’ development shined most brightly in last Thursday’s scrimmage with the Houston Texans in a moment ESPN NFL analyst Trevor Matich described in a recent tweet:
Jones is still learning how to play at the NFL level, like all rookies. But once he gets some in-game reps under his belt, look out—if Jones can be the workhorse running back the Redskins drafted him to be, he’ll have a shot at Offensive Rookie of the Year at the end of the season.