A Welcome Matt

It seems as if Jacksonville Jaguars fans need some sort of scapegoat, or fall guy, to blame close losses, or even unimpressive wins on. Former Jaguars quarterback Byron Leftwich used to be that easy target for most Jaguars fans, but now that he's gone, it seems as if wide receiver Matt Jones has taken over the title as team lightening rod, or most disliked Jaguars player.

So why has Matt Jones fallen so far out of favor with the Jaguars fan base? If you ask nearly any Jaguars fan, they will tell you that he has a poor attitude, he doesn't try hard enough, and he's afraid of contact. These are the perceptions of Matt Jones game, possibly due to the fact he's a long-stride runner, and he's a pretty laid back guy off the field. After Sunday's game, most people couldn't wait to talk about how Matt Jones shouldn't play in the NFL. This would be understandable if he had a day like the Jets Justin McCareins, who dropped not one, but two would be game-tying touchdown passes that hit him squarely in the hands in the Jets 20-13 loss to the Baltimore Ravens Sunday.

So what did Matt Jones do so wrong Sunday? He dropped one pass in which has was sandwiched between a Falcons cornerback and linebacker. Aside from that, Jones caught three balls for 36 yards. Perhaps some of the animosity toward Jones is left over from a week earlier, in which Jones couldn't come down with a pass in the end zone, while being tightly covered by a Titans corner? It would've been a tough catch, and Jones didn't make it, but how long will that play have to stick with him? After the opener, quarterback David Garrard called Jones out about that particular pass--

"From my perspective, I would hope he would catch any ball that hits him in the hands, but that defender's going to make plays, too, and he's going to do his best to knock balls out. I think he did a good job of making it a tough catch for Matt. I would've loved for him to come up with it and know he would have loved to catch it,"

I don't want it seem like I'm making excuses for Jones, because I'm not. I am fully aware of his perceived lack of work ethic, although I've been to numerous Jaguars practices, and seen otherwise. And I'm aware of his laid back attitude, because I've talked to Matt on a few occasions, and he does seem laid back, although I've never came away from talking to him like he doesn't care about the game, the team, or his play.

Up to this point, Matt Jones hasn't been what the Jaguars thought he'd be when they drafted him with the 21st overall pick in the 2005 draft. His 4.38/40 speed hasn't translated to pads and a football field, and although he's getting better, he's still not a good route runner. From time to time Jones has had lapses in concentration which have caused him to drop passes, and although he will go over the middle to catch passes, he's not the fearless type of receiver that takes punishment like a Hines Ward, or even Jones' teammate, Reggie Williams.

Jones is playing in his third NFL season, and I believe a lot of the negative feelings toward him from the fan base come from his draft status. Although the front office would likely never admit it (nor should they), drafting Jones in the first round was probably a mistake. In year three Jones hasn't turned into the superstar receiver that Jack Del Rio and James Harris had hoped when they made that pick. What Jones has done is caught nine touchdown passes while starting in just five games over his career. As laid-back as Jones is, and as poor as the routes he has run are, Jones is arguably as productive as any of the Jaguars receivers since he has been on the team, despite having started only a fraction of the games.

Many people will read this and still think that Matt Jones is soft, and that he shouldn't play in the NFL, and certainly not for their favorite team. Before all of you armchair GM's at home make the decision to cut Matt Jones, keep in mind one idea. What if Matt was a third or fourth-round pick? His salary of approximately $575,000 is minimal for a third year player. Would you take nine touchdowns in two years from a late first, or early second day draft pick? I know I would. Where Jones was drafted has nothing to do with what he is now, so try to take that into account before you hold that against him, or better yet, hold it against those who made the decision to draft him.

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