SAN DIEGO -- Following in the footsteps of undrafted rookies before him like Malcom Floyd, Tyrell Williams and Javontee Herndon, receiver Jamaal Jones has raised eyebrows with his play at Chargers Park.
Jones understands he has an uphill climb to make the final roster in September. But so far, he’s off to a good start during offseason workouts. Los Angeles Chargers coach Anthony Lynn singled out Jones as one the young players who stood out during organized team activities.
“Jamaal has caught my eye,” Lynn said. “The last couple weeks he’s been really solid. He’s catching the ball well and available. He’s been really good.”
At 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds, Jones signed with the Chargers as an undrafted rookie out of Montana last year after the draft, but suffered a broken thumb early in training camp and was waived with an injury settlement.
He spent the rest of the year in the Tacoma area recovering with the hope of returning to the Chargers in 2017.
“It was extremely hard to keep finding motivation to work out,” Jones said. “You get to that point where you do everything you think you need to do to get to that level and then it all goes wrong and you don’t hear anything from any other team.
“So it was hard to stay focused and motivated throughout that process, but I just had to dig deep within myself and keep faith. And it all ended up working out.”
Jones stayed in contact with the Chargers, and once healthy the team signed him in January to a futures deal. Jones said the Chargers wanted to bring him back on the practice squad last year, but couldn’t because of injuries.
And he’s flashed, showing the speed and acceleration needed to create consistent separation.
“With all those receivers being out, it’s really just given me an opportunity to make plays and show them I’m ready to step up if they need me,” Jones said.
Familiarity with the offense from his time last year also helped Jones play fast during offseason work. Jones said his focus has been developing into a polished route runner and creating separation on every play. But what has helped Jones stand out has been his speed.
Jones ran only a 4.6-second 40-yard dash at his pro day two years ago because he suffered a hamstring injury during the workout. Because of that, several teams took a step back in his recruitment during the draft process, Jones said.
However, Chargers scout Tom McConnaughey saw something and kept in touch with Jones. McConnaughey is the same scout who found Williams at Western Oregon.
Jones originally attended the University of Washington out of high school, but transferred to Montana after two years for a better opportunity at playing time.
It worked. Jones finished as Montana’s career record-holder in receiving yards (3,021), totaling 184 career receptions and 22 touchdowns. Jones was elected a team captain for his final season at Montana.
“Montana really gave me that opportunity to grow on the field and really mature and develop as a player,” Jones said. “I’m definitely thankful for that. It helped a lot. I definitely saw growth the three years I was there.”
Jones said he’s been pushed by receivers coach Nick Sirianni during offseason work. He ran a personal best 10.8-second 100-meter dash in high school, so the speed is there to make an impact at this level.
“Along with doing well in the offense, making sure I catch everything and run the right plays, I’m really going to have to show that I can play special teams,” Jones said when asked what he has to do to stick around in 2017. “That’s going to be the determining factor in my opinion.
“There’s really only one way to make it as an undrafted free agent and that’s just hard work. I’ve talked to him [Tyrell Williams] about what he’s done to get to where he is at this level, and it’s just really about hard work and how bad I want it.”