Training camp. It is a time for all different levels of NFL players to work on their game for the upcoming season. For established players such as Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz, safety Malcolm Jenkins, and others, they get a chance to fine-tune their skills, while also working on different plays and packages.
However, for rookies and players on the roster bubble, it is a prime opportunity for them to show the Philadelphia Eagles coaching staff why they should either make the 53-man roster or practice squad.
The latter of these two statements best describes what running back Matt Jones is facing.
Jones is not a rookie but is one of those players fighting for a roster spot in a crowded backfield.
The fourth-year running back out of the University of Florida was signed to a two-year, $1.5 million contract by the Eagles in free agency.
When he was initially signed, the thought was that Jones would fill the void left by LeGarrette Blount, who joined the Detroit Lions in free agency.
Last season, the Eagles carried four sometimes five running backs on the roster. And heading into this season, that can surely happen again with Jay Ajayi, Corey Clement, and Darren Sproles all guaranteed to make the team.
If that is the case, then it potentially leaves one spot left on the 53-man roster to fight for. Jones understands the situation that is in front of him and looks forward to the competition.
“I see an opportunity man and I’m chasing it,” said Jones after Friday’s training camp practice.
The Seffner, Fla. native will be competing with Wendell Smallwood, Donnel Pumphrey, and Josh Adams for the fourth running back spot. Each of these running backs does something uniquely different, which makes the competition that much harder.
Coming out of the University of Florida, Jones was known as a big, physical back who is going to fight and get you those tough yards.
Over his three-year collegiate career, the 6-foot-2, 239 lbs. running back racked up 1,431 yards on 297 carries and 11 touchdowns. His best season came as a junior, where he rushed for 817 yards on 166 carries and scored six touchdowns.
After a productive career at Florida, Jones was drafted by the Washington Redskins in the third round of the 2015 NFL Draft.
In two seasons with Washington, Jones had 950 rushing yards on 243 carries and six touchdowns. He also had eight fumbles, however, in his short stint with the Redskins.
The former Florida Gator had a tumultuous time in the nation’s capital, which came to an end last offseason. Washington moved on from Jones after he skipped involuntary workouts and asked to be traded or released.
Shortly after being released from Washington, the Indianapolis Colts picked up Jones.
With Indianapolis, Jones bounced between the active roster and practice squad.
Fast forward to this summer and Jones feels that he has improved, being more than just a big, bruising back.
“I feel like I am way more than that. I got so much better during the offseason. I feel great,” he said.
After practice, Jones elaborated more on the things that he is working on in training camp.
“Everything. Everything down pact as far as anything that got to do with a running back, I’m working towards it.”
“Just with my hands out, we are lining up at receiver and have to get a linebacker off, or getting low at the second level, cutting, bursting out of your cut, anything that applies to a running back right now I’m doing it,” he added.
When practice was over on Friday, Jones stayed outside on the field to do extra catching drills with a tennis ball, doing whatever it takes to make himself a versatile running back in today’s NFL.
Luckily for him and the other players, they will get a chance to show off all the work they’ve put in on Aug. 9 in the Eagles’ first preseason tilt against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
However, until then, Jones has one goal in mind this summer.
“My personal goal is just to grind. Grind, grind, grind, nonstop and I can’t let up. I see an opportunity that I can grab.”