LIONS INSIDER

TJ Jones listed as starting returner

Posted Sep 8, 2015

TJ Jones is listed as the Detroit Lions' starter at punt return and kickoff return for this week's regular-season opener in San Diego.

TJ Jones is listed as the Detroit Lions' starter at punt return and kickoff return for this week's regular-season opener in San Diego.

Head coach Jim Caldwell said he’d make a final determination on who’ll be returning kicks for him sometime before kickoff, but it certainly looks good for Jones to get the first look there after being listed as the initial starter early in the week.

TJ JonesWR TJ Jones (Photo: AP Images)

“Had a chance to see him during the preseason a bit and he made some nice runs,” Caldwell said of Jones’ punt return average of 9.8 yards in the preseason.

“He runs a little faster than what you think, he can make you miss and he certainly can break a tackle once and a while, it’s not his forte, but he certainly has that ability.”

Jones returned punts some his senior year at Notre Dame and told detroitlions.com that if he did indeed win that role he'll look at himself as a starter and prepare every week accordingly.

“Whether it’s front line on kick return or starting receiver, I think you have to take your starting position at any position in this league very seriously,” he said. “If I was fortunate enough to earn that role, I’d take it with utmost importance.”

Jones sat out his rookie season last year due to shoulder and nerve injuries, and at one point didn’t know if he’d ever be able to play again. He showed up to training camp on the outside looking in of the 53-man roster, but played consistently both on offense and special teams throughout training camp and the preseason and made the most of the opportunities presented to him.

“In that last (preseason) game, really, you had him, you had Jeremy Ross, you had Greg Salas, you had Corey Fuller,” Lions general manager Martin Mayhew said.

“Those guys were going to play that whole game. They were going to compete that whole game and we were going to see who took the bull by the horns and who wanted to be here and as you saw, TJ (Jones) made some big plays in that game.”

Jones had a 64-yard touchdown grab and an 18-yard punt return in the 17-10 win over Buffalo to end the preseason.

Ameer Abdullah, Golden Tate and Josh Wilson are also in the mix for the Lions' return duties, but if Jones does in fact stay atop the depth chart in the return game heading into Sunday, what kind of return man can we expect him to be?

“At the end of the day it’s going to take someone who’s ready,” Jones said. “You have 11 guys running down the field at you full speed and you have maybe a second to catch and react, at least on punt returns.

“I think (a good returner) is someone who really has to take a chance. Not be afraid to get hit and taking those chances every now and again. I think it’s high risk and high reward.”