Way We Hear It: Buffalo Bills rookie Zay Jones struggling with confidence
Buffalo Bills wide receiver Zay Jones appeared to have a terrific landing spot in the 2017 NFL draft, going to a team that was badly in need of playmakers in the passing game. The team traded Sammy Watkins and saw Anquan Boldin retire in training camp, opening up a giant opportunity right away.
Additionally, in what was viewed as an ideal situation, Jones’ wide receivers coach at East Carolina, Phil McGeoghan, was hired to new head coach Sean McDermott’s staff and recommended the Bills take Jones, a Senior Bowl standout who caught an FBS-record 399 passes for the Pirates.
So when Jones struggled early in the season it was not yet a big cause for concern. In his first two games this season, Jones started both but only caught three passes for 39 yards on 10 targets and dropped what was a huge catch in the final moments of the Week 2 loss at the Carolina Panthers.
But the Bills still kept their faith in the player they believed in when they traded up to the 37th pick to draft him in April. Still, we hear that Jones — who took ownership to the media this week for his struggles — has had his self-confidence has been shaken at times.
“He’d drop a pass and was beating himself up inside for it every time,” a source told PFW. “He’s been having a hard time turning the page, so to speak, so that’s what [he’s working on].”
Jones has had a good support staff in place, from the Bills’ coaches (and especially McGeoghan) to his own family. Father Robert Jones, who played in the NFL for a decade in the 1990s mostly for the Dallas Cowboys and Miami Dolphins, attended the Bills’ most recent game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Still, Jones struggled in that game, too, catching only two passes for 17 yards on nine targets. And that’s at the heart of Jones’ issues: He has caught a mere seven passes on the season despite 32 thrown in his direction. That said, as our source estimated, at least 10 of those passes were uncatchable, as Tyrod Taylor’s accuracy has been scattershot at times.
What made Sunday’s struggles against the Bucs so stark was that Deonte Thompson, signed only five days earlier, caught four passes for 107 yards, including a key 44-yard grab on the game-tying drive in the victory.
There has been a lot of criticism around Buffalo with Jones’ play, and he understands why.
“It’s fair,” Jones said, via ESPN.com. “I expect a lot of myself. I know my coaches do. The players around me do. It’s really fair, to be honest. Wherever the ball is, it’s my job to catch it and do the best I can. …
“So I accept it fully. I’m not running from it. But I know things are going to get better. My time will come.”
Jones still has a bright future, the team believes, and it has no plans to stray from its plans with him. There’s concern about the lack of self-confidence, but there’s no reason to think he can’t overcome it eventually.