Matt Jones, the Arkansas quarterback found himself in a familiar position during Senior Bowl week. He was back at wide receiver, a spot he was recruited out of high school as by several Division IA schools.
It was late Sunday night that Tampa offensive quality control coach Kyle Shanahan came into the media room all bent out of shape. All of the other rooms were occupied and he asked the media to leave. Gladly complying, we packed up our bags. The coach claimed he had under an hour to teach him the position. He even got snotty with one reporter, telling him to hurry up.
For all the coaches' arrogance, and he had a lot, Matt Jones made a smooth transition back into his roots.
"I felt about as comfortable as you can feel," Jones said. "Kyle Shanahan did a real good job going over some stuff with me. We went one-on-one with some stuff and he really showed me a lot.
"I played a little bit. It has been a couple of springs at Arkansas – I have played wide receiver before. It wasn't like it was my first time out there."
There are even teams that have contemplated his future at tight end. Jones impressed in the week of Senior Bowl practice and had the catch of the week on Wednesday, a one-handed stab in the end zone over Bryant McFadden.
The problem with moving him to tight end may be his upper body. He is not developed enough in the chest and arms to fight off linebackers and the Houston Texans have questioned whether he has the toughness to play tight end.
"He just has his own style," Tampa Bay head coach Jon Gruden said of Jones. "I don't know what he is going to be. He can obviously play wide receiver. Whether he is big enough and has the want to become a tight end, we'll see. Those are decisions that he will have to make."
"He is a phenomenal athlete," said one Alabama coach. "He has one-step speed."
The one-step speed statement may have been over the top but he has a long stride and it appeared cornerbacks didn't know how to cover him. It was deceptive speed more than a burst off the line.
Jones said he would return to quarterback for the Combines but if he continues to get looks at wide receiver and delivers he may have to take a hard look at that position.
The week he had in Mobile certainly made a position change a possibility.
"He has caught a lot of people's attention," Gruden added. "If there are three or four guys who really stepped up and were the talk of the Senior Bowl, he was one of those guys.
"He makes unbelievable catches, one a one-handed grab in the end zone away from his body. You have to look at a lot of film to find a play like that. He has to get himself physically prepared to be a wide receiver or a tight end. It is a different kind of running and he must get acclimated to the conditioning that it takes to play another position. He understands football and has great talent."
Jones is known as a laid back kind of guy. His surfer persona may end up turning teams off but there is no mistaking his abilities. He is deceptive with his speed and can go up to make the tough catch.
Whether or not he commits to that is another story. He believes he can play quarterback at the next level and when egos get in the way it can be detrimental. Some of the teams looking at him need help at quarterback and taking a flier on Jones may be beneficial in two ways. They can potentially shore up the quarterback spot and if it does not work out they can just as easily turn him into a receiver.
He weighed in at 242 pounds in Mobile and ran surprisingly well for his size during the week. He may not have been the fleetest of foot, but he got separation from the defenders. It doesn't hurt that he towers over members of the secondary at 6-foot-5.
"I just want to play at the next level, whether that is at quarterback or wide receiver," Jones said. "It is the Lord blessing me with the ability to play this game."
"How do you not like Matt Jones," Gruden asked. "The guy doesn't say much, busts his butt, can run like hell and catch and can clobber you if he feels like it. Those are the kind of guys you win games with."
Where he goes from here will be interesting. Jones will never be confused with Kordell Stewart or Antwaan Randel El but he could be a multi-dimensional threat at the next level. Between now and his pro day, he may be forced to pick a position.
Asking Jones whether he is worried about teams dropping him because he hasn't fully declared himself at a position doesn't yield much.
"(Senior Bowl) week is the start," he said. "I don't know if it makes or breaks you. I have never been a guy that gets too uptight or worries about anything."
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