ORCHARD PARK, NY - SEPTEMBER 18: Chris Johnson #37 of the Oakland Raiders misses intercepting a pass intended for Donald Jones #19 of the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium on September 18, 2011 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
Buffalo Bills wide receiver Donald Jones has certainly been a popular topic of conversation this week. The third-year receiver out of Youngstown State is emerging as the early favorite to be a starter for head coach Chan Gailey, and two of his most prominent offensive teammates are beginning to sing his praises.
"I shouldn't even be saying this though, but Donald is gonna be the one who is gonna turn some heads," wide receiver Stevie Johnson told WGR 550's Joe Buscaglia at OTAs this week. He later continued, "I think he's gonna have a great season and I think we'll be alright because he'll be able to open it up more."
Jones' quarterback, Ryan Fitzpatrick, expressed similar optimism when directly asked about the receiver in a Thursday morning appearance on The Howard Simon Show.
"I've always been a huge fan of Donald," Fitzpatrick told WGR 550's Simon. "He had a few setbacks last year in terms of problems with his ankle and a couple different injuries that kept him off the field and slowed him down a little bit.
"Donald's a guy that'll probably come out and surprise some people," Fitzpatrick later concluded. "He's done it before. If you look at what he did last year in the first New England game, I think we'll see more games like that out of him this year."
As we noted yesterday, despite Jones apparently being the current leader for a starting gig on the outside, the team has been playing him in the slot quite a bit during OTAs. In Johnson's eyes, that's a change that suits Jones' playing style.
"We moved him inside to the slot and he's looking real good," Johnson told Buscaglia. "He's got a perfect body for it. The power to get open and get separation... It's just how we work him in the rotations. We'll have Donald outside, then we bring in a different group and he'll go to the inside. We'll have [Derek] Hagan on the outside, it's just how we're switching it up. We're attacking them in so many different ways and Donald's skill set is allowing us to do that."
Last summer, we heard similar rhetoric about Jones in the immediate aftermath of the team's trade of Lee Evans. Things obviously didn't work out so well for Jones in 2011, but if Gailey has figured out how best to utilize Jones, and if Fitzpatrick and the rest of the offense still have faith in him, there's reason to believe that Jones may take advantage of the major opportunity sitting in front of him.