During full-contact practices during training camp, Jones hasn’t generated the yards after contact that coaches know he is capable of producing. At times, he has gotten stopped in the backfield, and other times after minimal gains.
It’s not a strength issue, however. It’s mental.
“Both [running backs coach] Randy [Jordan] and [general manager] Scot [McCloughan] and myself, he’s been challenged a little bit to finish some runs,” Gruden said. “A lot of the times in these practices you’re not sure how to finish runs, but we want him to finish violently. … I just think probably the tempo. [He’s] young. That’s probably how they did it in college and he’s thinking that he gets five, six yards and he’s done for the day, but we want him to finish the runs.”
Jones admitted he has observed a difference in the physicality of the NFL game compared to the college game.
“It’s way more physical because you’ve got guys that are smart and are going to come up and meet you in the hole at the same time,” Jones said. “So it’s way more physical. … That’s what I like to do, just run downhill. It’s just the learning aspect of the game.”
Towards the end of this week, Jones began showing signs that he is catching on. He lowered his shoulder to fight his way through tackles, and looked more sure of himself.
On Thursday, Jones took a handoff on a sweep to the left, turned the corner and ran to daylight. Around 15 yards downfield, he steamrolled Texans cornerback Kevin Johnson with a violent hit that Gruden had spoken of.
“That’s what type of guy he is and he did that today, so I was excited to see Matt,” Gruden said.
The Redskins hope Jones has turned the corner, and that run serves as a sign of things to come on a more regular basis.