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The following events really happened…
…in my mind.
Scene: Washington Redskins Headquarters. Conference Room. All seats are filled with team officials from the owner to the GM, to the head coach. RC Fischer, football scout to the stars, has been requested to attend this meeting. He’s just arrived, and is escorted into the conference room where everyone is waiting.
Random Redskins ‘Suit’: R.C., we’d like to thank you for coming to our team headquarters to share the findings on your so called ‘Rewind’ study of Matt Jones. We’re all very curious of your take, your outlook on how we should value Jones as our lead running back, or not, for 2016 and beyond. You come highly recommended, and your calls on Melvin Gordon and David Johnson last year defied all known logic of football scouting in the free world. We highly value your opinion.
RC: Thank you for asking me to offer my analysis. I only wish you would have offered to pay me for it. It’s costly to run an upstart football website, and now I have to take time away for this. But, thanks nonetheless. First, I have to ask – why did you release David Amerson last year? Like, let me into your mindset. I’m curious.
You know what? I can see by the looks on your faces that this is not the time or the place. You only asked me about Matt Jones. So let’s focus there.
Random Redskins ‘Suit’: Yes. We are very intrigued by your take on Jones. We know you’ll shoot straight with us. So let us know what you think. Our owner, GM, and head coach all believe he is a franchise running back, but we’d like an outside opinion.
RC: OK, great. But I have to say quickly – you know you’re wasting opportunity by not utilizing Pierre Garcon more, right? What’s the thinking there? Is it a play-calling issue or a Kirk Cousins issue?
You know what? Let’s put a pin in that. Let’s talk Matt Jones. I went back and looked over our data on him from college to the pros, and then I re-watched every touch he had in 2015 for you. I’m ready to share what I saw.
Permission to speak freely?
Random Redskins ‘Suit’: Absolutely, we brought you in for your candor. We need to know if Matt Jones is the answer to our running back needs. Should we go all-in on him for 2016, and count on him for the future?
RC: OK, got it. Here goes.
Are people out of your $#%@%#$# minds? What the hell are you thinking? Don’t you watch tape? I mean, what do you see when you do watch? I just looked at every one of Matt Jones’s touches from 2015, and it was an unmitigated disaster. I mean, a total mess…from a ‘is he the guy’ standpoint. I went into the study ‘neutral’ – thinking I’d see some good, some bad, and that I would probably tell you he’s average with a general ‘shoulder shrug’ on my part.
I can’t tell you everything is ‘good’ or even ‘OK’ here. It’s a mess. I can’t believe what I saw. What did you people do; wasting a third-round pick on this…and now thinking you have a franchise running back? I mean, you guys do this for a living…like you get paid a lot…for this? This is crap.
You have three MAJOR problems here with Jones as your main, workhorse runner…
1: Matt Jones is not ‘shifty’…
I didn’t expect him to be Barry Sanders, but he is as tight/non-agile a starting running back as there is in the NFL. I made fun of Carlos Hyde for the same in 2014, but he radically changed his ways in 2015 – because he lost weight (he needed to). Matt Jones is not pudgy like Hyde used to be. Jones, likely, cannot lose weight and gain a ton of agility…plus, it sacrifices the power running you guys covet about him.
Any defense that makes Jones change directions on a running play will gain critical time to pursue/tackle him…it’s almost like he gets stuck in mud making a sharp course change. I couldn’t believe how pronounced it was on tape. There’s a good reason why he only averaged 3.4 yards per carry last year, despite you guys having a decent offensive line. The guy averaged a mediocre 4.8 yards per carry in college (which is a weaker output among college talents). Almost half his games in college were under 4.0 yards per carry in each game (red flag). He had like two or three sweet games for Florida, and then a bunch of nothing/mediocrity over his college career.
Last season, his two longest runs came against the Rams (his best game as a pro) – he reeled off 39- and 25-yard runs. They were both untouched runs/sprints downfield. If you ignore those two plays, that any RB in the NFL could have made, Jones averaged exactly 3.0 yards per carry on his other 142 carries last season.
All the signs, college and pro, are pointing to a problem.
2: Matt Jones is not a ‘strong style’ runner…
Everyone keeps equivocating that Jones is 230+ pounds, and thus ‘shifty’ isn’t that important because he can ‘truck’ defenders…but he doesn’t; not really. I don’t know that I recall a 230+ pound running back who was so easily tackled in all my scouting history than was Jones in 2015.
Between his lack of making people miss with his non-agility, and his house-of-cards flops most any time he gets touched…I would be scared S-less to have him as my feature running back right now.
He does have NFL size and athleticism. Let him run straight ahead, get a head of steam…and he’ll get you some yards a la the hoax that is Jeremy Hill. But Jones will NOT create or make things out of nothing. You could find a hundred running backs in the NFL or off waivers to do exactly what Jones does for you. The other hundred are probably better all-around running backs as well.
3: Matt Jones has unreliable hands…
He measured with tiny hands at the NFL Combine – 8.6″. He proceeded to fumble five times last year. It’s not a focus thing…it’s a ‘hands’ thing. It’s all exacerbated by how many hits he takes on because he is not shifty enough to avoid all the direct hits.
What I’d be more worried about is how poor a receiver he is. Because he has smaller hands and isn’t a natural catcher – he catches passes into his body a bunch, and bobbles simple on-the-move targets as well.
He’s a concern on every touch.
You have a playoff-caliber team, or so you think. You are not so dominant a team that you can afford to blow any opportunity. So why would you put your playoff chances at risk by shoving a major workload on an unreliable, below-average talent running back…of which there are like nine million available at the lowest payroll costs in all of football?
Perhaps, he corrects his fumbling…but you’re still left with a low-talent, one-dimensional back who isn’t as tough a runner as people are telling you. Groom him as your #3 RB, if you want. Grab a veteran to take the lead until Jones works out the kinks, if he even can. Rotate the two runners to keep them fresh, along with sprinkling in Chris Thompson like you did last year.
Bottom line – if I were you guys, I would be scared to death. I would see Matt Jones as a high-probability bust as a lead runner, and I would be signing free agents now, making trade offers, and pouncing on any reasonable RB that gets dropped for contract reasons in August–September. You CANNOT go into this season relying on Matt Jones…unless you’re trying to lose on purpose.
Random Redskins ‘Suit’: Get the hell out of this office. You don’t know what you’re talking about. Everyone loves Matt Jones across the NFL and in the media. You never played the game! What do you know? We’re going with Matt Jones as our workhorse. You’ll see!!
Guards, remove RC from the premises at once!!
(RC is forcibly removed from the conference room, but with his legs up kicking and pushing back against the walls.)
RC: (under physical restraint, shouting) You’re going to regret this. You’re making a big mistake with Jones.
(RC is dragged down the hall.)
Random Redskins ‘Suit’: (shouting out down the hall) No, we’re not going to regret it! Oh, and we’re not signing Pierre Thomas, just to spite you. And don’t even think we’ll give Bryce Brown a look.
RC: (still being shoved down the hallway) Stupid idiots.
Random Redskins ‘Suit’: We heard that.
RC: You were supposed to!
Other NFL teams that would like me to research their players, or reader comments, complaints, etc.:firstname.lastname@example.org
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