Las Vegas Raiders training camp has been filled with players on the rise and veteran wide receiver Zay Jones credits Raiders quarterback Derek Carr and his infamous park workouts for helping prepare him better for 2020.
When Zay Jones met with the media this week, it was just a day after the world found out his teammate Tyrell Williams was out due to a torn labrum. With much more depth and talent at wide receiver than in recent memory, Jones has been singled out by team management, coaches, and the same media for having a very good camp.
But why is it that Zay Jones, who was a mid-season trade acquisition in 2019, has looked much more confident, sharp and focused this season? He credits his relationship with Raiders quarterback Derek Carr and his teammates offseason workouts, plus committing to Las Vegas as his long-term home.
“I wanted to get to Vegas as soon as possible,” Jones said. “Just commit to making this a home for myself, and establishing that relationship especially with ‘D.C.’ [Derek Carr]. It was different from last year, transitioning into a team not really knowing anybody. Those are conversations that you would usually have in the offseason didn’t take place for me, so I was kind of playing catchup with the team all last year. This summer was very important for me just to get around the guys, especially get around him and understand his language, the way he talks. Just building a genuine relationship with him even outside of football, because the football stuff is going to take care of itself.”
Zay Jones admitted it wasn’t optimal last season coming in and having to cram to learn Gruden’s playbook, know the tendencies of his quarterback, and just overall feel settled.
Jones appeared in 10 games for the then Oakland Raiders catching 20 balls for just 147 yards and no touchdowns. Jones had his best year in Buffalo in 2018 when he complied 652 yards on 56 receptions finding pay dirt seven times.
The trade, change in locale and system, has taken the young and talented wideout time to adjust.
“When you come into a middle of a season and try to learn someone’s playbook, there are small details that you may miss just naturally because it’s just so much,” Zay Jones said of Gruden’s offense. “There is a lot of language, a lot of verbiage that goes into it. So, it being my second year essentially with the playbook, understanding what all is going to go into it, now I can be more versatile. Now I can move inside, now I can move outside. I can go X, I can go Z. And I can really understand the language of things and get these details down.”
But those infamous offseason workouts with Derek Carr at park in Las Vegas were huge for Jones. They not only helped him grasp football better, they also allowed him to get closer with his teammates before they headed to Raiders training camp.
“Yeah, I think just being with the guys and being around, having an understanding for who they are, not only as just football players but as people gives me a better understanding of what I am going into,” Jones said. “Like getting the relationship with Alec Ingold, getting that relationship with ‘Nelly’ [Nelson Agholor], with D.C., with [Derek] Carrier, with Foster [Moreau], these guys that were committed in the offseason coming here early to put the groundwork in.”
General manager Mike Mayock raved this week about Zay Jones and how he’s looked during camp. Jones said, in addition to the offseason team workouts, he’s focused on his weight and quickness to help produce better results in 2020.
“More importantly, I cut a little bit of weight,” Jones said. “I want to be more fluid, faster. Quickness was a main focal point for me this offseason. Just the route running.”
If Zay Jones can emerge, along with rookie Bryan Edwards and free-agent acquisition Nelson Agholor, the reduced availability and capabilities of Williams could be minimized.
“I think I’m one of the guys that has one of the most experience in our room alongside Ty and Nelly,” Jones said of his role in the WR room. “(I) just bring that experience to the group and just try to be a leader for those guys the best way I can.”