By Scott Brown
Monday, September 18, 2006
It seems inconceivable that a man who stands 6-foot-6 still has a growth spurt in him.
Truth is, Matt Jones, the tallest in a group of Jacksonville wide receivers who resemble redwoods next to Pittsburgh's defensive backs, may have several of them in his future.
The second-year pro is settling into the position at which he got a crash course last season. The more comfortable Jones gets catching passes instead of throwing them, the more discomfort he figures to cause defenses.
Allow Jaguars quarterback Byron Leftwich to explain.
"I always call him the X-factor, because he's a freak, man," Leftwich said. "Here's a guy, 6-6, 235, 240 pounds, that can run, that can jump, that can catch the good balls, catch the low balls, catch the high balls."
There is no telling what he can do on a football field, considering he set a team record for touchdown receptions (five) by a rookie wide receiver, even though he didn't play the position in college.
Jones starred at quarterback for the University of Arkansas - he is second on the school's all-time list for passing yards and touchdown passes - before the Jaguars made him the 18th overall pick of the 2005 draft and switched his position.
The progress he makes this season took on added importance when Jimmy Smith, the franchise's all-time leading receiver, retired last May.
"I'm not thinking as much right at the beginning of the route, like, should I go inside to start, should I go outside, and just reacting and letting things happen," Jones said during the Jaguars' training camp. "Things are flowing a little better."
Said Leftwich: "Last year at this time, he was still a quarterback in his head and in his mind. This year, he's a wide receiver. He's a guy that worked his tail off, and now he understands the wide receiver position."
The size advantage Jacksonville's wideouts have on Pittsburgh's defensive backs is a concern for Steelers coach Bill Cowher heading into today's 8:30 p.m. game at Alltel Stadium.