The Los Angeles Chargers entered the offseason knowing they'd take a cautious approach with the veteran receivers at the top of the depth chart. As a result, a number of young wideouts have an opportunity to set themselves apart in a deep and talented corps that NFL Network recently named one of the top in the league.
While the group as a whole has impressed, Head Coach Anthony Lynn singled out one wide receiver in particular following Tuesday's practice.
"Jamaal (Jones) has caught my eye," he said. "The last couple weeks he's been very solid. Catching the ball well. Available. He's doing pretty (well)."
If Jones' name sounds familiar, it's because he was with the team last offseason before a freak injury on the third day of training camp cost him his rookie year. Instead of fighting for a roster spot, Jones was subsequently waived-injured.
Now he's eager to show what he can do.
"It means a lot to hear coach say that because I spent all of last year at home reflecting on what happened," Jones explained. "I went through all of OTAs last year, and I really went into this year with the mindset to take advantage of every opportunity granted to me. To know he said I'm catching his eye really means a lot."
The 6-1, 192-pound wideout is Montana's all-team leader in career receiving yards (3,021) while also ranking third in receptions (184) and eighth in touchdowns (22). He played three years for the Grizzlies after transferring from Washington, and earned offensive MVP honors in 2015 after catching 75 passes for 1,217 yards and 11 touchdowns.
While Jones has always had a passion for the game, having it taken away last year in bitter fashion has lit a new fire.
"That was tough. The one thing I didn't want to have happen, happened. I was left wondering what I was going to do. The thing about it was I didn't realize it was a serious injury until after practice. I broke my thumb going across on a drag route (after) I got hit in the air and landed on it. I felt something and thought it was dislocated. I went through the rest of practice squeezing it trying to get my strength back, but then after it started to swell up and get black and blue. Then I got an X-Ray and found out I broke it. It was very devastating."
Luckily, Jones didn't have to ponder his future for too long as the Bolts called him following the end of the season. In January, he re-signed with the team with a newfound outlook and purpose.
"It was a sigh of relief, and I felt like I could focus again. I know what I've been missing. I've put a lot more time into the playbook this year. I've put in a lot more time toward my body. Any time I feel one thing wrong, I don't think about it (but) react and pay attention to it. I want to be unguardable in this league and someone who can be counted on in any situation. But I know as an undrafted free agent I'll start at the bottom no matter what. It's not something I worry about. I just focus on what I can bring to the table, and worry about myself when it is my turn to go. I know this is an opportunity right now to make the most of it. This is a great chance for me to show what I can do. I've been running with the ones. That is the best opportunity I can think of."