OXNARD, Calif. — It appears Reshad Jones made five tackles in four preseason games, but of course, the Miami Dolphins safety hasn’t made a tackle that matters in 11 months, an October contest against Pittsburgh.
Since then, Jones has agreed to a 5-year, $60 million contract extension.
Since then, Jones has had rotator cuff surgery to repair a tear in his left shoulder.
It seems to me that Jones’ return to Miami’s defense has been an under-the-radar storyline this entire preseason.
It seems to me that it was too easy to forget something I had written last season — that through six games, Jones was not just a very good player, but Miami’s best player.
“Nothing should be said about my return,” Jones told me after practice on Wednesday. “There are great players on this team. We’ve got a great staff. We’ve just got to win some football games. I just want to continue to come out and do what I’ve been doing. I’m just here to do what I’ve been doing for this football team for eight years. Be consistent. Make plays.”
There is so much attention and focus paid to how much Ndamukong Suh and Cameron Wake are paid and if Jordan Phillips will ever reach his potential and if the good Byron Maxwell will please stand up, that Jones is somehow, too often, still, overshadowed.
Jones is a player who can change the course of any game with one play, one of the rare Dolphins defenders who is capable of making a thrilling, dynamic, athletic, sometimes unplanned, instinctual, ball-hawking, behind the line of scrimmage, turnover-inducing momentum-changer.
And this should not be forgotten, for in the preseason, Miami’s defense still seemed capable of bending, if not always breaking, under new first-year defensive coordinator Matt Burke.
For the record, will the transition from Vance Joseph to Burke bring with it any wrinkles, tweaks or novelties?
“Nah, not really man,” Jones said. “The same.”
If Jones can be the same Jones he has been throughout his career, he’s the type of impact player who could win the Dolphins a game or two on his own.
One thing Jones said on Wednesday, that sticks with me, however, is the idea that his shoulder surgery was not at all easy to rehabilitate from, and that he still hasn’t, to an extent, completed the entire course to perfect health.
“It’s a long process,” Jones said. “With the shoulder. I have to keep working it. It’s a long process with the shoulder. It’s one of the worst surgeries you can have, pretty much. So it’s an ongoing process. I’m still working every day to keep it strong, and keep it good, but you know, doc felt real good about it, it’s stable and everything like that. So I mean I haven’t really been thinking about it.”
Miami needs Jones to be a sure tackler.
Miami made the playoffs last season despite a woeful effort in the area of run defense.
There is the belief that Jones can make an impact in that area. After all, he is one of the Dolphins most capable of tackling an opposing running back for loss, something that did not happen frequently enough last season.
I mentioned to Jones, 29, that while I felt his contract extension was well deserved, some will wonder if he can live up the terms of the agreement. Jones is extremely confident, but he downplayed any notion of additional pressure.
“I don’t worry about that,” said Jones, whose contract will contain an average annual salary trailing only safeties Eric Berry and Tyrann Mathieu. “Only guys I have to worry about are the guys in my locker room and the staff. I have to play consistent. It’s not living up to anything. Like you said, it was well deserved. The team felt like it was the best thing for me and the team. All I’ve got to do is continue to go out and do what I’m doing.”
Last season, Dolphins coach Adam Gase said of Jones: “I wish all our guys played with as much effort and heart as that guy plays.”
Last season, Jones told me his life philosophy is simple: “Kill the man with the ball.”
Miami needs Jones to make a major impact this season. The Dolphins need Jones to show as much effort and heart as he ever has. Miami needs Jones to kill the man with the ball.
Jones’ return to the NFL’s regular season was delayed a week due to Hurricane Irma.
“We’ve got a good plan for these guys,” Jones said of the Los Angeles Chargers.
But do the Chargers have a good plan for Jones?
He’s one of the players on Miami’s defense that a quarterback, and an offensive coordinator, must account for.
Jones’ return to Miami’s defense surely hasn’t gone unnoticed by them.
“I’m excited,” Jones said about Sunday’s game. “I haven’t played in a game for a while. I’m pretty pumped, actually.”