TJ Jones show up year proves he’s worth holding onto.
Our 2017 roster review will reexamine the Lions’ roster and how it played out last season. We’ll take a look at expectations, performance and potential role in the future.
Today, we continue our discussion with Detroit Lions wide receiver TJ Jones
Expectations before 2017
If you’re asking me, the expectations were that TJ Jones wasn’t going to play for the Detroit Lions in 2017. Back in July I wrote that TJ Jones was the under-the-radar player that I’d have the closest eye on in camp, but it wasn’t necessarily for good reasons. I felt that Jones was in a place where the Lions just kept waiting for him to break out and he never did. Prior to 2017, Jones biggest season was 10 receptions for 132 yards and a touchdown.
I though Jared Abbrederis ad Jace Billingsley would take over Jones’ spot and he would try to catch on elsewhere.
Actual role in 2017
2017 stats: 14 games (6 starts): 30 receptions, 399 yards and 1 touchdown; 6 punt returns 47 yards (7.8 avg); 5 kick returns, 105 yards (21.0 avg)
PFF Grade: 77.5 (34 out of 116 WRs)
TJ’s stat line doesn’t exactly jump off the page at you, but it’s not about the numbers in this case. It’s about when the numbers came. The answer is always in big spots.
TJ’s three biggest games were against two of the Lions biggest opponents of the year and the Bears. Jones grabbed 63 yards on three receptions and helped set up the Golden Tate touchdown that wasn’t against Atlanta.
He balled out with 88 yards on four catches against the Steelers and showed up big in both meetings with the Bears, totaling seven catches for 81 yards and a touchdown. Jones became that hidden playmaker the Lions needed in moments when their top playmakers failed to step up.
TJ effectively took my pre-camp take and flipped it on its head. TJ showed that he belongs right here in Detroit.
Outlook for 2018
Contract status: Restricted free agent
Well here’s the good news about Jones: The ball is firmly in the Lions court with him. Being that Jones is a restricted free agent, all the Lions have to do is offer a deal or don’t, but I’m guessing they more than likely will due to Jones’ big season.
Despite the belief that Jones belongs in Detroit, there’s still going to be some questions surrounding him in 2018 if the Lions retain him. The big question is how are they going to use him?
The Lions will get their entire receiving crew back in 2018. That includes Golden Tate, Marvin Jones Jr., a healthy Kenny Golladay, a much improved Eric Ebron, Theo Riddick and whoever the Lions choose to be their new running back. Matthew Stafford and company have plenty of options here. How does this affect Jones in terms of touches and overall playing time?
Jones will likely find a home on special teams as he usually does, and the Lions will be able to use him in small situations as they should. But at this moment, it’s hard to feel like TJ Jones could ever be more than a player that makes big plays in needed moments. We’ll see in 2018 if he can prove me wrong yet again.
Previously: DE Dwight Freeney, LB Tahir Whitehead , DE Ezekiel Ansah, S Tavon Wilson, CB Nevin Lawson, LS Don Muhlbach, LB Paul Worrilow