Ability is not the issue with Brandon Jones.
His fate in the Tennessee Titans receiving corps will rest on three things _ health, production and consistency.
Like many of the Titans other receivers, Jones is getting a new lease on life in new offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger’s system. After all, he has finished two of his first three years on injured reserve and trying to find his role among the receivers.
During the off-season, Jones dropped down in the rotation a bit, but after the first day of training camp, he has risen to be the Titans’ first option as slot receiver.
Does he have a stronghold on the position as the Titans try to sort out the pecking order among their wideouts?
“It’s too early to tell. We’ve got a long way to go,” Jones said. “If you ask me this after the fourth preseason game, and I’m still doing my thing out there on the field, then I’d say, yeah, but it’s a long road. I’ve just got to continue to perform out there on the field every single day.”
By nearly all accounts, Jones, who because of his injuries and inconsistencies has never caught more than 27 passes in any of his three years with the Titans, is having a strong camp _ maybe his best ever. Still, he is far from satisfied.
“I’m not off to the best start out there. I could make more plays out there,” Jones said. “There are more plays to be made always, but I’m working on being consistent and going out there and working hard every day.”
Jones supplemented the attention he has been getting by making a nice catch in traffic against Eric King and Donnie Nickey during Tuesday morning’s work, typical of the plays he has made through the first week in camp.
Heimerdinger is seeing it too, though, it is still too early to call the race for any positions or rosters spots just yet.
“Brandon has had some good practices and he’s starting to make some plays, and I think he’s starting to feel comfortable with what he’s doing,” Heimerdinger said. “But all of them are doing some good things. So it’s kind of going back and forth with all those guys. But Brandon has really made some good plays lately and doing some good things.
“He’s doing better. He’s getting in the right spots. He doesn’t have any mental busts right now, and he’s making some tough catches the last couple of days. Brandon is doing some good things.”
One of the things the Titans stressed to Jones this off-season was to improve on his consistency.
“That’s the thing that I heard from him and from my coach [Fred Graves] and even from Coach [Jeff] Fisher,” Jones said. “It’s something I’ve heard and something I’m tired of. It, and I’m trying to put it behind me and be as consistent as I can be.”
It is beginning to pay off, as the coaching staff is paying attention to Jones’ details.
“He’s getting in the right place at the right time. He’s very sharp in and out of his breaks,” Fisher said. “It’s just good to do what we expected him to do, and I guess the big thing for Brandon is become more and more consistent. He’d flash a great play. He’s glide and make a big play here and there. Now, he’s got the potential to make a big play every time we throw it to him.”
It also helps that Jones might have found his niche working as a slot receiver, something he hasn’t done consistently since his rookie year.
“I love playing the slot. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do and wanted to stay at. I played it my rookie year and then I kind of got backed off it,” Jones said. “A lot of times, coordinators think little guys are supposed to be in there, and I’m glad that Heimerdinger sees things different. I just hope that he keeps me in there.”
Vince Young already appears to be giving his approval to Jones’ work on the inside.
“Brandon Jones has been doing real well, from the looks of every day coming out here and catching the ball and making big plays for us, and being physical to the ball,” Young said. “The speed that he has, he’s starting to showcase that a whole lot. … He’s using his speed, and Heimerdinger is loving him right now in that slot.”