After deeming his college career at Florida sub-par, running back Matt Jones is hoping to prove his pass-catching skills in the Redskins' backfield.
Running back Matt Jones has been up front about his college career at Florida. It's not exactly what he wanted it to be.
So after leaving for the NFL after his junior year, Jones, who led his Florida team in rushing attempts (166), rushing yards (817) and rushing touchdowns (6) in 2014, was disappointed his receiving skills were never fully utilized with the Gators (he caught just 11 passes for 65 yards last season).
"I didn't really catch the ball a lot at Florida," Jones said after rookie minicamp on Saturday. "But they always knew I could catch the ball and we just didn't do it a lot."
That all looks to swing towards the Redskins' favor this season – Jones says he'll be playing with a chip on his shoulder – as the unusually big 6-foot-2, 231 pound back wants to prove his pass-catching abilities, ones he never quite had the opportunity to showcase.
"I love catching the ball out of the backfield and that's something [the Redskins] want to have so I'm just grinding to do that," Jones said. "But I really want to have a successful career in the NFL so that's why I'm going even harder because I didn't have the college career I wanted."
That's not to say Jones is unappreciative of his time in Gainesville. It was there he played behind running back Mike Gillislee, learning his role on the team, just like he'll learn how to complement starter Alfred Morris.
Jones knows the pedigree Morris brings with him to the backfield, but, like any rookie looking to demonstrate his skills, that doesn't mean he's not going to challenge Morris for a spot.
"I know Alfred Morris has been the starter but we will compete," Jones said. "I will compete with anybody who's in front of me. Like I said, I want to add everything I've got to the team and just be a team guy.
"[Morris] is a very humble guy," Jones added about the 2012 sixth-round draft pick. "He said he ... grinded all the way through to a starter role to being a Pro Bowlers, so he gave me tips of just being a humble guy and just coming in and doing what you have to do. He told me that we'll compete so there's no hard feelings, but it's a job."
Head coach Jay Gruden isn't nearly ready to address the depth chart but knows both Morris and Jones will push each other as Organized Team Activities begin next week and Training Camp approaches in late July.
Check out these photos of University of Florida running back Matt Jones, the Redskins' 95th-overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.
"Alfred is a darn good halfback, so in order to take carries off of him, you've got to show a lot," Gruden said. "So far, Matt has taken the right steps to take a little bit of the load off of Alfred…but in the NFL nowadays it's important to have two, three guys that can carry the ball."
Certainly, size will help, as Jones continues to progress through an NFL strength and conditioning program.
Jones labels himself as a downhill runner and is excited to work in an offense that supports that trait, especially now that coach Bill Callahan has taken over the offensive line and first-round pick Brandon Scherff is there to provide an extra push.
"The thing about Matt is you think of him as a big power-type back, but really, Matt has done some things out in space that have been very, very impressive – making moves on the second level, getting to the second level," Gruden said. "In the passing game, running some option routes on linebackers. He has done some good things. He has got natural hands."
In high school, even with his size, Jones still played running back, though he said he would often jump out wide or settle in the slot.
And while he says he's inspired by running backs Eric Dickerson and Marshawn Lynch, and general manager Scot McCloughan labels him "tough as crud," he's made sure his hands are exactly the opposite.
"They're pretty soft," Jones said with a smile. "Like I said, I love catching the ball and they just stick right there on my hands so I love it."