Justin Jones knows big things are expected from him in 2019.
He knows second-year players are supposed to take a monumental leap forward after getting their feet wet as rookies.
They know the system.
They’ve adapted to NFL speed.
They’ve experienced everything the pro level has to offer.
"A lot of guys make a big step their second year,” Defensive Coordinator Gus Bradley explained. “They understand the defense and the techniques that are involved. They all want to take that next step to understand formation tendencies and things like that. We applaud that as a coaching staff, but not at the expense of our fundamentals. Those are key. That's been a big emphasis thus far with our players.”
Sure, that includes the usual work put in, such as film study, weight lifting, conditioning and so on.
However, Jones took it another level this offseason.
In fact, the 22-year-old transformed his lifestyle all with the singular purpose to take that next step forward in his development.
“I changed my diet,” he began. “I eat a lot more vegetables. I stopped eating red meat. I watch a little more film. I started going to the sauna because I heard that's pretty good for you. This offseason, I tried a bunch of different things. Instead of training in football, I went to do boxing. I went and did field work, but I did a little bit of swimming. I rode a bike — I don't ride bikes, but I rode a bike this time. Stuff like that, just keeping things different. Still getting the workout in, but having fun while you're doing it with something that you normally wouldn't do.”
The impetus behind this change actually came from Head Coach Anthony Lynn.
"You think between OTAs, training camp, workouts and the season, that's a lot of football going on,” he said. “The chance you have to get away from football, I think you may want to do that. (Head) Coach (Anthony) Lynn actually said that in a team meeting once, just to get away from it. He said, 'If you have a bike, go ride a bike.' I haven't (ridden) a bike since I was in seventh or eighth grade, but I rode a bike. It's just different. I have a whole new respect for boxers because I went a round-and-a-half to two rounds sparring and I about died. They go 12 rounds. They make it look easy. It's stuff like that, trying different things. Who knows? Maybe when football is over, you might have a love for a different thing that you never knew you had, but it took that offseason for you to find out."
So far, so good.
Jones is already feeling the benefits of these changes, crediting his new diet for making him a quicker athlete.
“(Giving up) red meat is hard, but what you realize is that there's a lot more things that you can do with other meats just to fill that void. I do feel a lot better. I feel a lot lighter, I feel a lot faster just because it's not sitting on me all the time…(I’m) A couple pounds lighter, but I definitely feel lighter. That's the important part.”
While Jones won’t get on the field with coaches until Phase II, he’s already impressed those inside Hoag Performance Center.
“I know that, him coming back into a familiar environment for a second year and some of the offseason things that he did — I think he kind of pared down his training to what he felt like would help him after being a year in the system,” Bradley said. “He looks really good coming back. We're excited just to see how far he's developed."