Jason Jones definitely fits somewhere in the Tennessee Titans’ defensive line rotation.
Where that is exactly might not be decided until training camp, however.
In fact, the Titans have been busy during this offseason fitting the second-round pick from Eastern Michigan into both the tackle and end positions along the defensive front.
“Actually, right now it’s just both,” Jones said when asked what position he is learning to play. “My responsibility right now is to learn both. I could be stuck out at tackle or I could be stuck at end. It doesn’t matter.”
One thing is certain — the Titans are counting on Jones to play some sort of valuable role as a rookie. Last year, only first-round pick Michael Griffin played a significant role beyond special teams as a rookie.
Jones, 6-5, 275, is part of a group in 2008 that has a chance to see extensive playing time. That group includes his fellow linemate William Hayes, a fourth-round end from Winston-Salem State.
“It’s not going to be a developmental thing for Jason. He’s going to come in and play,” Titans coach Jeff Fisher said. “He’s 275 or 280, he’s got growth potential. He can line up at end for us. He can move in and rush at tackle. We feel he’s got growth potential to move in and end up as a very, very good defensive tackle prospect.”
Jones got his first taste of working with the Titans’ veterans last month, and said players like Kyle Vanden Bosch, Jevon Kearse and eventually franchised tackle Albert Haynesworth are guys he can learn from.
“Coming in and playing right away is a good thing. With the supporting cast, like Kyle, Jevon and Albert Haynesworth, I think they can help me out in this process of me playing so early,” Jones said.
Defensive line coach Jim Washburn is excited about both of his rookies, who are part of a group working to offset the losses of Travis LaBoy, Antwan Odom and Randy Starks from last season.
“I like them. These are two guys I really like,” Washburn said. “They’ve really got some talent. I don’t know how long it’ll take them to play, but they’re two of the more talented people we’ve had in here.”
Jones doesn’t lack the confidence that it takes to succeed, echoing that after his first couple of days of working with the veterans.
“I feel I fit in good. The older guys are embracing me and giving me tips on everything to do to improve,” Jones said.
Jones knows he will need plenty of mentoring not only from the veterans, but also from Washburn if he is to make an impact early on in making the jump from a smaller Division I school to the NFL.
“He said I had natural talent and ability and that with his coaching, he can get me there,” Jones said. “I’m a very raw person right now. I know my technique needs to be improved right now, but I know with his help and my athletic ability, we can make things happen.”
Even a veteran Pro Bowl player like Vanden Bosch is excited about what Jones and Hayes potentially bring to the mix this season.
“I can see why we drafted them,” Vanden Bosch said. “They both have a good amount of ability and they’re both going to be able to help us this year. They’re pretty raw and just getting adjusted to our system, but I think they’re going to be able to help us.”
During the time between now and training camp, Jones will be busier than most rookies, as he will be asked to learn both the tackle and end positions and be ready to contribute at both places as a swing man.
“Right now, it’s just me learning both positions,” Jones said. “It is a challenge because you’ve got to know everything, what the ends are doing, and what the tackles are doing. I feel I’m smart enough to learn it, so I’ll be all right.”
SAFETIES VISIT: The Titans hosted four safeties at Baptist Sports Park on Thursday, including long-time NFL starter Adam Archuleta.
Archuleta, 30, was recently released by the Chicago Bears after one season. He had spent 2006 with the Washington Redskins, signing a big free-agent contract, and before that the previous five seasons with the St. Louis Rams.
The Titans are potentially in the market for special teams help and adding someone at strong safety to play behind Chris Hope.
In addition to Archuleta, the Titans hosted Rocky Schwartz, an undrafted rookie from the University of Houston they coveted after the draft. The Titans were outbid after the draft by the New Orleans Saints, who released Schwartz late last month.
Also, former Carolina Panthers, San Francisco 49ers and Jacksonville Jaguars safety Deke Cooper was in for a visit.
The fourth player the Titans hosted is former Oklahoma Sooners safety D.J. Wolfe.
PRACTICES TOGETHER: As reported several weeks ago in The City Paper, the Titans and St. Louis Rams were making plans to practice together. Those plans have apparently been finalized and will take place leading up to the preseason opener between the two at LP Field on Aug. 9.
The Rams feature former Titans Drew Bennett and Jacob Bell.