MIKE O'HARA

TJ Jones' performance, not name to decide future

Posted May 17, 2014

Although his name has been written and pronounced a number of ways, it will be TJ Jones' performance on the field that decides his future with the Lions.

TJ Jones has some work to do to make a name for himself in professional football, but he’s already made some distinctive initials.

The Lions’ rookie receiver goes by TJ, with no periods after the T and J and no space between the letters.

The short answer for why he started going by initials in his senior year in high school and as a freshman at Notre Dame is because of the way people mispronounced his given first name of Tai-ler. It’s pronounced Tie-ler.

“My mother (Michele) is from Korea, so they wanted to go with a more different, unique spelling, so the Tai is like Taiwan,” Jones said Saturday after the second day of practice at rookie mini-camp. “There’s a dash between the T and the L to space it out.”

Most people still did not pronounce his name correctly.

TJ JonesWR TJ Jones (Photo: Detroit Lions)

“They were calling me Tray-ler, Tay-leer, Tailor – anything you could think of with that arrangement of letters,” Jones said. “It made it a little easier to say TJ on the field and off the field.”

Ultimately, it will be his performance at receiver, not his first name, that determines Jones’ future with the Lions.

My quick take on TJ Jones, and issues at the receiver position:

  • Depth chart: With Calvin Johnson back and Golden Tate signed as a free agent to add a dependable second receiver, the Lions are set with two starters. After that, Jones is part of an open competition for roster spots and playing time.
  • Kris Durham played all 16 games with 13 starts last year and had 38 catches. Jeremy Ross and Kevin Ogletree both were signed during the season. Ross made his biggest contribution in the return game.
  • Ryan Broyles, a second-round pick in 2012, has had season-ending injuries in both seasons with the Lions and in his 2011 season at Oklahoma. Any contribution from him will be a bonus.
  • Receiver wild card: Rookie Eric Ebron, drafted with the 10th overall pick, is listed as a tight end but really is a big slot receiver. The three-receiver formation is likely to be Johnson, Tate and Ebron.
  • Draft class: This year’s draft lived up to its billing as being deep in talented receivers. There were 33 drafted – six more than last year – with 12 going in the first two rounds.

The fact that Jones was taken in the sixth round, 189th overall and the 25th receiver to go off the board indicates that he is by no means a lock to make the 53-player active roster, or to have a major role if he sticks.

By comparison, the Lions drafted wide receiver Corey Fuller of Virginia Tech in the sixth round and 171st overall last year, and Fuller was welded to the practice squad all year.

However, there also is no comparison between Fuller’s college career and what Jones accomplished at Notre Dame. Fuller had 2 catches in 2011 and 43 in 2012.

Jones was productive in four seasons at Notre Dame. He was a full-time starter the last three seasons and led the Irish in 2013 with 70 catches for 1,108 yards, 9 TDs and a 15.8-yard average per catch. For his career, he had 181 catches and 19 TDs.

There is an opening for someone to grab a job – no pun intended – but initially the first job facing TJ Jones is to learn a new offense. As complicated as the playbook Notre Dame Coach Brian Kelly put together might have been, Jones has found it’s nothing like the one he’s been handed by the Lions.

And lining up in practice drills with Megatron and Tate – a fellow Golden Dome alum – has been somewhat daunting.

“I got in a couple plays,” Jones said. “I really didn’t know what I was doing. That stopped that real quick.

“At first it was a little overwhelming. It was kind of a dream come true to have such greats surrounding you. It’s something you have to get used to because if you want to play next year -- if I want to get on the field -- I’m going to be surrounded by them.”