Jaguars Perfect For Jones

FAYETTEVILLE – With Arkansas down to three green as limes quarterbacks for next season, we figure you'll be doing a lot of Jonesing during the fall.

And if you want to catch Matt next season, scrawl down these dates and times and stick ‘em to the fridge:

Saturday, July 3, 8 a.m. Central.

Saturday, Aug. 20, 8 a.m. Central.

Until then, Jacksonville's Jaguars will sell only season and group (10 or more) tickets.

Preseason tickets go on sale July 3, and regular-season ones will be available at the latter date and time.

If it's a stretch for you to make it down to Jacksonville – and after living in nearby St. Augustine for six months or so in 1995, I highly recommend it – you'll have three close enough opportunities to watch Arkansas' former quarterback as he makes the transition to NFL receiver.

On Sept. 1, the Jaguars play a Thursday night preseason game down in Dallas.

On Oct. 30, they'll play a regular-season game up in St. Louis. On Nov. 20, Jacksonville travels to Nashville to take on Tennessee's Titans.

A couple of months ago, the thought here was any such trips would be a huge waste of time and money. Figured the oft-lethargic Jones would be a middle-round selection who might just go through the motions, get homesick and head back home to Van Buren.

Those thoughts slowed when Jones awed the folks at the Senior Bowl. More so when Jones ran a 4.37 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. They came to a screeching halt when the Jaguars shocked just about everyone by taking Jones with the 21st pick in the 2005 NFL Draft.

Looking at Jones' situation – and listening to the way Jaguars coaches intend to use him ASAP – it seems he'll be a can't-miss NFL receiver.

The Jaguars have talked about playing the 6-foot-6, 242-pound Jones some at tight end or H-back, but we figure he mostly will line up wide, opposite star receiver Jimmy Smith (6-1, 208). Sixth-year pro Troy Edwards (5-10, 195) should again anchor the slot.

Jacksonville snatched Washington's Reggie Williams with the ninth pick of the 2004 NFL Draft. Williams struggled last season, catching just 27 passes for only 268 yards and 1 touchdown. Jones' early selection clearly illustrates the Jags aren't exactly sold on Williams.

How perfect is Jones' setup?

Pretty darned.

No need to fit Jones for a teal cape just yet, but new Jacksonville offensive coordinator Carl Smith (who groomed USC's Matt Leinart and other quarterbacks like Drew Bledsoe, Tim Couch and Jim Everett) is intent on installing quick-striking downfield heaves into a unit that dinked West Coast-style last season.

Big drop-backer Byron Leftwich seems tailor-made to play the quarterback role for such schemes.

New (via Tennessee's Titans) Jacksonville receivers coach Steve Walters is a Jonesboro native.

Heck, he even played here for the Hogs (well, sort of, as a reserve quarterback/defensive back) from 1967-70.

More important, Walters has been here and done this before. Almost exactly.

In 2001, UCLA quarterback Drew Bennett signed – as an undrafted free agent, no less – with Tennessee. There he worked with Walters, who made him a special project of sorts.

Bennett is 6-5 and lighter and slower than Jones.

The Jacksonville Times-Union has quoted Bennett gushing about the job Walters did with him and his predictions of great things to come from Jones.

Last season, Bennett caught 80 passes for 1,247 yards and 11 TDs.

Walters finally got his hands on Jones during Friday's first day of mini-camp. According to Leftwich, Jones, whom he calls "Big Country", snagged every ball that came his way during what the Associated Press termed a "spectacular debut" before tweaking a hamstring.

Jones won't be down for long. He is in the best shape of his life and is out to prove wrong those who question the Jaguars for picking him up so early.

He's actually studying the Jags' playbook and even said "no" to turkey hunting earlier this week to concentrate on the job at hand.

Clearly he realizes this NFL stuff is serious business, and this could be a make or break season for coach Jack Del Rio, who rolled the dice with Jones.

"Jones is the centerpiece of the Jaguars' draft class," wrote Vic Ketchman, senior editor for jaguars.com. "You could say that about all first-round picks, but it applies more to Jones than other first-round picks for some very distinct reasons:

" • There is an element of risk involved in Jones' move to wide receiver.

" • Jones is an intriguing player who has the kind of star potential that could put the Jaguars over the top and into the playoffs.

" • His personality will sell tickets in a town where seats are being covered."

Indeed, to avoid TV blackouts, the Jaguars will drape tarps over 9,713 seats in ALLTEL Stadium this season.

That puts single-game tickets at a premium.

For more information on them, call the organization's ticket office at (904) 633-2000.

You also can find Jaquars single-game tickets (home and road) at http://www.tickets-nfl-football.com//jj/tickets.htm.

As of this writing, 218 tickets were available for the at Dallas game.

Just be aware, as the Web site states, that those are listed at "more than face value."

Bet here is they'll be well worth it.




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