Players come and go, bouncing around from team to team until finally an opportunity arises, and then it clicks.
That’s what the Jaguars are hoping to see out of new starting strong safety Josh Jones this season, and for head coach Doug Marrone, he knew immediately when training camp began that he needed to see more from him.
Jones, 25, is heading into his fourth season in the NFL.
After being selected in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft by the Green Bay Packers, Jones has already gone through two teams, playing for the Dallas Cowboys last season. Neither opportunity afforded to him has worked out, but finding his place on the Jaguars appears to be a solid shot - at least, the Jaguars are giving him that shot.
“When we’re looking to get down to numbers early on, when we’re going from 90 to 80, I really didn’t know where a lot of these players were, and Josh just stood out right off the bat,” Marrone said yesterday when asked about what stood out about Jones to make him the starting strong safety.
“So all of a sudden you’re coming in there and you’re not looking to move the chart, as far as the depth chart or getting guys reps, and he came back with knowledge and enthusiasm and being in the right position and making plays from the first day walking into the building.”
Jones will be replacing former Jaguars safety Ronnie Harrison, now with the Cleveland Browns, and while the road to get to where he is currently was long, it showed in his preparation early on that he was going to make the most of his opportunity.
Being claimed off of waivers by the Jaguars at the end of the season, Jones wasn’t able to connect with coaches right away. That didn’t stop him from, according to Marrone, reaching out and asking for various things to help him with his offseason, and giving the coaching staff a game plan for what he wanted to accomplish heading into the year.
The sense of urgency impressed Marrone who likens his accountability and determination to that of second-year defensive end Josh Allen’s, who spent the entire offseason refreshing himself to become the best player he can be for the team moving forward.
“I didn’t really want to mess up the depth chart too much early on, but I was like, ‘Shoot, we have to see more,” said Marrone. “We’ve got to see more. We’ve got to give this guy an opportunity.’ I think every time we had given him an opportunity, he showed up big, he really did. He took advantage of it.”
Coming out of N.C. State following the 2016 season, Jones was though of as one of the best safeties in the class. In three seasons with the Wolfpack, Jones tallied 139 solo tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, eight interceptions, 17 pass breakups and three forced fumbles - a playmaker.
His draft stock would only increase as the draft moved closer, taking the NFL Combine by storm, running a 4.41 40-yard dash, jumping 37.5 inches in the vertical leap and benching 225 pounds 20 times, an athletic freak as a strong safety at 220 pounds.
While it doesn’t always click or work out right off the bat for players, Marrone feels that sometimes the feeling of “this is it,” can oftentimes give you that extra motivation, and put you in the mindset of performing at your best. It appears Jones has done at least that so far.
“He did everything he could to put himself in a position he is [in] and make no mistake about it, it’s beneficial for us when a guy shows up and plays the way he does,” remarked Marrone. “He’s big, he’s strong, he’s fast. [He] communicates extremely well. [He’s] very knowledgeable. He has all of the things that you’re looking for, so we’re expecting him to play at a high level like he’s been practicing.”