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All-22 analysis: Checking in on Zay Jones

The Bills’ wide receiver has, by all accounts, made a huge leap in his second year. Let’s check in and see what’s shakin’

In his rookie season last year, Zay Jones was widely panned for underwhelming play. Steady improvement in year two has created increasing excitement for the Buffalo Bills’ wide receiver. With the team shifting into roster-evaluation mode in preparation for the 2019 season, let’s take a peek at how Jones is coming along in 2018.

Play 1

Zay Jones has hit the field on offense 86% of the time this year. Blocking is a big reason why. This exact block isn’t his best, but highlights the willingness to get in on the action. Also significant is his ability to jam and move. On the line like this, it doesn’t pay off too often. On longer runs, it’s not uncommon to see Jones springing things at the second level.

Play 2

The Bills aren’t shy about sending Jones (or anyone else for that matter) on a fly route. Jones isn’t known for speed, and it typically shows up. The defensive back doesn’t seem to be struggling to keep up. This isn’t a waste by any means though. With Josh Allen under center, the Miami Dolphins were reluctant to let any receiver get behind them. The throw is rushed but Jones’s route takes the defender with him and opens up some options underneath.

Play 3

The book on Zay Jones has always been more about a finesse style. Brian Daboll sets up receivers at different depths, and Jones’s quick cut gives him room to work with. The throw is a little late and a little high, but Jones looks to have accomplished his part of the play.

Play 4

My favorite part of this play is that it’s not easy to tell in real time that Jones hesitates at the top of the route. Jones quickly breaks across the back of the end zone giving Allen plenty of room to work with. Even with the pass coming in hot he maintains his feet in bounds for the score.

Play 5

Jones pivots quickly and shows off the potential of timing routes in the future. The ball goes to Kelvin Benjamin instead who hops to make the catch which is never good for momentum. Jones’s move cleared a large area behind him. If Benjamin makes the first man miss, he’s off to the races.

Play 6

Zay Jones changes direction and makes Minkah Fitzpatrick bite so hard that he’s oblivious to Josh Allen scrambling. Jones creates plenty of separation for a catch but also continues to demonstrate the value of crisp moves. Even when the ball isn’t heading his way, he’s often positively impacting the outcome of the play.

Play 7

It’s hard to tell if it’s Daboll, Jones or Fitzpatrick who deserves the most credit. In all likelihood, Fitzpatrick was told to play to the sticks to make sure a short pitch-and-catch can’t get enough yards for a first down. Jones runs by and settles in before the safety can come down to break up the play. Allen is throwing on the run and still rockets a perfect pass to Jones. Execution from both players here is hopefully a vision of the Bills’ future.

Play 8

The clip pauses to point out the narrow lane the pass has to fit through. While that’s certainly a credit to Allen, think about this from the receiver’s perspective as well. Trying to track a ball around the defender while looking it in through that tiny window takes concentration and discipline. Jones is tested on this play and passes with flying colors. Well, Josh Allen passes but you get the idea.