As a “humbling” first season wraps, WR Zay Jones says he wants to spend entire career in Buffalo
By: Nick Wojton
ORCHARD PARK – Buffalo Bills rookie wide receiver Zay Jones proclaimed he had the best hands in the NFL draft. Whether it was that proclamation or something else, the Bills (8-7) saw something they liked in him, taking Jones out of East Carolina in the second round of the 2017 draft, 37th overall.
With confidence like that, the rookie thought the NFL would be a breeze, it’s been anything but that. Truly the only way to describe his season is that it’s been a roller coaster.
First, Jones started off his NFL career with five grabs in his first four games which included a drop in the final seconds of Week 2 against the Carolina Panthers. Buffalo lost 9-3 but would have likely won if a diving Jones made a catch at the goal line.
After Buffalo’s Week 6 bye, Jones had 11 grabs for 102 yards in a three game span. Jones missed Week 10 with a knee injury but returned for a four catch, 68 yard game, a career-high against the Los Angeles Chargers. Jones even led Bills wide outs with 25 grabs and 291 yards at one point.
Steady as she goes, until the last three weeks. Another low point.
Jones hasn’t recorded a catch in the past three games, his last one came against New England on Dec. 3 in the fourth quarter when rookie Nathan Peterman found him. Jones never thought it’d be like this.
“No. And I think it was humbling to have,” Jones said. “It was great to have theses struggles and challenges and this adversity. I feel like it’s built me more as a human being, as a person. Not just as a football player, but ultimately as a football players as well. So I’ve learned a lot. I try not to take it for granted.”
Buffalo head coach Sean McDermott, like Jones, is not overreacting. When asked if Jones has had one of the most up and does seasons he’s seen from a rookie receiver, McDermott responded: “You hit the nail on the head, he’s a rookie.”
Jones has seen a slight drop in playing time over the past three weeks, too. Jones has played 61, 71, and 76 percent of snaps, respectively after, at times, playing 90-plus. McDermott mentioned the promising play of Deonte Thompson and Kelvin Benjamin as reasons why, but added it’s not a slight against Jones.
“Well, it’s just about opportunities. When you talk about what Deonte’s done, what Kelvin’s done, and just different personnel groupings. Our confidence in Zay has not changed,” McDermott said.
In his own words, Jones said his three-game catch skid has a lot of factors that go into it.
“It’s just the way things unfolded. There are plays for me in the game plans. Maybe, I don’t know, maybe Tyrod (Taylor) didn’t see me? I don’t know, maybe the defense did something differently? There are a lot of factors that go into it. People start blaming and you can’t do that, man,” Jones said. DT had a monster game against the Patriots, KB had an amazing catch, this and that. Charles (Clay) balls against Miami. Just sometimes how it unfolds. It was my day against the Jets and Kansas City. It’s just how it is.”
Regardless, Jones said he plans to learn from the tough times he didn’t expect to see.
“Hundred percent can learn from it. I’m looking at it as a through a perspective of longevity, multiple years in the NFL not just one,” Jones said. “Whoever takes this year and dissects it and say this is who Zay is, I believe is wrong. This is just a starting point. It’s only going to go up from here.”
In fact, Jones said he already is learning. He learned until he earns it, he doesn’t have those best hands.
“You promote yourself the best way you can to get you here and once you get here, you’re proud of the things you’ve accomplished but none of those things matter. You’re basically starting from scratch,” he said.
And when Jones earns that, he knows where he wants to be when he does.
“I’m trying to be the best I can here. I want to be a Buffalo Bill for the remainder of my career, I’m not trying to go anywhere,” Jones said. “I’m super happy, I’m grateful to be here. I think this team is grateful to be in this position because a lot of team are not. I feel optimistic about today, the future, I think things are going to go our way.”
Jones and the Bills will need a lot to go their way on Sunday. Buffalo needs to defeat the Miami Dolphins (6-9) and have a few others scenarios go their way to crack the playoffs. Sunday’s kick is slated for 4:25 p.m.