With Duke Williams getting the call up from the practice squad last week, it made the Jones trade all the more inevitable. For almost his entire time in Buffalo, there have been rumors that he would be traded.
Jones hasn’t had the easiest time in Buffalo, and the trade ends what has been an up and down career for the 24-year-old pass catcher out of East Carolina.
Zay Jones’ Career
Jones was selected in the second round of the 2017 NFL draft with the 37th pick out of East Carolina.
In college, Zay Jones set the NCAA Division I record for most career receptions with 399 and most single season receptions with 158. After finishing his senior year with 158 receptions for 1,746 yards and eight touchdowns, he got invited to the Senior Bowl.
Pre-draft predictions had Jones going in the second round and the Bills swapped picks with the Los Angeles Rams to move up to 37 to snag him.
This was ahead of notable players like Alvin Kamara of the New Orleans Saints, Juju Smith-Schuster of the Pittsburgh Steelers, and Curtis Samuel of the Carolina Panthers.
In his rookie campaign, Jones showed many struggles of adjusting to the Pro game. He was targeted 74 times but only managed to haul in 27 catches for 316 yards and two touchdowns. He also didn’t catch his first career TD until week nine of the regular season in 2017.
In his second year, Jones showed flashes of progress but not enough to truly make an impact enough to give him top WR status.
It came out that he played much of his rookie campaign with a torn labrum in his shoulder. He missed OTA’s in 2018 due to another injury sustained during the offseason, and he started training camp on the non-football injury list.
During his second season, Jones showed progress, but for every step he took forward, it felt like he would take two back. He could never string together two successful games in a row. Jones could show out one game catching one or more TDs and catching for 50+ yards, but then the next it was like he didn’t exist.
He would barely make any plays, or drop a huge pass and get about 20-30 yards and generally no TDs. It always felt like that some point for Jones the other shoe would drop (Ha, get it because he would drop balls a lot?), and he would end up making a bad play.
At the end of his sophomore campaign, he was targeted 102 times and caught 56 of those for 652 yards and seven touchdowns. He also led the Bills in receiving the year.
This season, Zay Jones started two games, played in 57% of the offensive snaps while only being targeted 18 times making five receptions for 69 yards and no touchdowns with a catch percentage of 43.68%.
His last game with the Buffalo Bills where he was at least somewhat apart of the team may have been the worst ever for a wide receiver in Bills history. This was against the New England Patriots.
Jones played 58 snaps which was 73% of the offensive snaps, but he did not make the most of it. He was targeted eight times, only caught two of those targets for fours yards, and was a part of three of the four interceptions thrown.
Throughout his career with the Bills, Jones has dealt with drops at the most inopportune times, which caused many Bills fans to question whether head coach Sean McDermott and general manager Brandon Beane made the right call in selecting Jones.
Another factor in Jones becoming an outcast among Bills fans was his legal troubles during the 2018 offseason. He got arrested in L.A. for suspicion of felony vandalism after getting into an altercation with his brother on the 30th floor of his hotel and threatening to jump out of the window.
Where Does This Leave the Bills?
To be quite honest, it leaves the Bills in a better spot. With Williams called up, it allows the Buffalo Bills to truly explore what they have in him, and so far it seems very good.
Williams’ great stat line on Sunday made Jones expendable. I agree with the notion that a fifth round pick in 2021 isn’t fantastic, but that was the market for him, a very inconsistent wide receiver who doesn’t seem to have his head on straight.
Jones gets the chance to start again and make something of his young career while the Bills get to move on. The Bills signed Cole Beasley and John Brown for a reason.
Robert Foster is also another key piece to this. Foster basically overshadowed Jones at the end of last season and shined as an undrafted free agent. Foster is battling a hamstring injury this season, but he showed that he could be much more consistent then Jones.
The additions of Beasley and Brown also forced Jones to be the odd man out. Every since he arrived really it seemed that there was never truly a place for Zay Jones on the team and that he didn’t mesh well with the scheme on offense.
I believe that this improves the wide receiver core and allows Foster, Williams, and Isaiah McKenzie all to get shots to show that they belong. This WR core can become very dangerous if they begin to start clicking with Josh Allen on a more consistent basis.
We have definitely seen flashes of what all of the pass catchers can do, but if they can do it more consistently then the Bills could become a lethal team. Putting up 20 a game wouldn’t be out of the question or possibly even more.
It was time for the Buffalo Bills to move on from Jones, and at least they got something out of it. Hopefully, he can do well in Oakland, but the Bills won’t even miss a beat without him.