Wide receiver Zay Jones entered the NFL possessing a second-to-none collegiate résumé. Unfortunately for Buffalo Bills fans, his impact as an NFL player thus far has been remarkably underwhelming.
If you’re like me, you try to find a silver lining in just about anything. Being a Buffalo Bills fan over the past couple of decades has forced me to push the limits in my seemingly futile hunt for silver linings.
Following a 21-11 loss to the New England Patriots in November of 2001, I bought (then) head coach Gregg Williams’ claim that unproven defensive end Kendrick Office was improving at a rapid rate and on the precipice of something special after a two-sack performance.
He ended his career at the conclusion of the following season with an insignificant total of three sacks. Office is just one example of countless Bills over the years whom you hoped would give validation for watching a perpetually defeated product.
This year’s rendition of such insignificance is wide receiver Zay Jones.
Pedigree and Production
In an effort to replace the recently departed Robert Woods, lame duck general manager Doug Whaley (aka Sean McDermott) decided to trade picks 44 and 91 to the Los Angeles Rams to move up into the second round of the 2017 draft and take Jones No. 37 overall.
At the time, the idea made too much sense. Jones was the son of Super Bowl XXXV hero Robert Jones and emitted the clean cut, polished image that the organization was looking for. More importantly, Jones’ on-field production during his four-year career at East Carolina was downright legendary. He broke NCAA receptions records for a season (158 in 2016) and a career (399).
Coming in at an ideal 6-foot-2, 200 pounds, Jones ran precise routes, was cerebral enough to consistently get open and was as sure-handed as they come.
Much to the chagrin of Bills fans, Jones has been a shadow of his former self as a professional.
Heading into his first preseason game, Jones was positioned with the luxury of learning from talented incumbent Sammy Watkins and three-time Pro Bowl veteran Anquan Boldin. Two weeks later, the aforementioned duo of receivers were no longer on the roster. Instead of rising to the occasion and proving that his draft status was warranted, Jones proceeded to have a nightmarish rookie campaign.
As Bills fans know all too well, (then) starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor has never been mistaken for a gunslinger that fits balls into tight windows or throws his receivers open. You know, the stuff that successful, modern day quarterbacks do? Well, in Taylor’s defense, he got out of his comfort zone in a Week 2 game against the Carolina Panthers late in the fourth quarter.
Jones failed to rise to the occasion.
Sure, the ball was not perfectly thrown, but Jones had an opportunity to do something significant for his team at a significant time in the game, to no avail. Following the disheartening loss, Jones said all of the right things to reporters. “It’s very tough, especially because of the guys in this locker room,” a dejected Jones admitted. “I play my heart out for them, and absolutely love. It is just really difficult right now.”
The remainder of Jones’ first season was equally disastrous. Participating in 15 games in total, Jones pulled in a feeble 27 receptions for 316 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Jones was held without a catch in three contests and was limited to a single catch in three others. Kind of insignificant if you ask me.
Jones further continued to make his second round draft selection a questionable one following a disturbing offseason incident that narrowly ended both his NFL career and life altogether. Fortunately, Jones was around the right people that afforded him a second go of it. Unfortunately, this has not resulted in production on the football field.
Despite having more of a prototypical quarterback in Josh Allen taking the majority of snaps for the Bills this season, Jones has netted an insignificant 10 catches in four games. Devil’s advocates will point to inadequacies with the team’s youthful quarterback as the main cause, but the true common denominator is that Jones continues to be insignificant.
He fails to gain the separation required to make big plays. He has not displayed the ability to win 50/50 balls that prolific receivers consistently do. The rare occasion he does catch a football, he is either instantly tackled or goes out of bounds. *Yawn*
In summary, Zay is simply not keeping up with the Jones’. In this case, the Jones’ being young, successful wide receivers who were drafted in rounds two or below who are significantly better at the things Jones has failed miserably at. You know, guys like Michael Thomas, Cooper Kupp, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Tyreek Hill and so on.
Instead, we are left with continued, insignificant rubbish attached to Jones this season. Case in point:
I’d love for Jones to prove me wrong, turn things around and have a long, significant career with the Bills. However, based on his current trajectory, I just don’t see it happening.