Watching fourth-year receiver TJ Jones operate in the slot at Detroit Lions practice Friday morning, the weight and muscle he's put on this offseason certainly stands out.
It was something the coaching staff suggested he do after last season, and the early returns seem very promising for Detroit's offense.
"We agreed that playing heavier would add that physicality to my game and it's proving to show," Jones said after Friday's practice. "It's something we all feel good about and it's something I'm glad I did."
Jones wouldn't divulge exactly how much weight and muscle he's added to his frame, other than to say it was "significant."
The added muscle already looks to be helping him make some of those contested catches over the middle, and operate much more effectively in that portion of the field.
"If there a hand-to-hand combat, I'm not trying to avoid it or finesse my way around it. I'm almost welcoming it now," he said.
Jones played the third receiver in three-receiver sets with the first-team offense through most of the spring, and that's continued in training camp. He's been a fixture in the slot in camp, and is trying to win that job heading into the season. He's trying to win the punt and kickoff return duties, too.
"He has done some of what he intended to do in terms of the weight, and he's a very versatile guy," head coach Jim Caldwell said of Jones. "He's really practicing well at this point. I'm pleased with what he's doing and he keeps trying to find a way to get better."
Jones has showed snippets of playmaking ability over the last couple years in Detroit, but he knows consistency will help not only win him a roster spot, but allow him to be a steady contributor through an entire 16-game schedule.
Jones caught 15 passes for 225 yards (15.0 average) with a touchdown over his last two seasons.
He said watching Anquan Boldin play the slot last year at 218 pounds – Jones was listed at 190 a year ago – and the physical nature in which he played it, help spur on his muscle and weight gain.
"There weren't many guys who were just going to stick and hold onto him," Jones said of Boldin. "So, seeing that, that's kind of what made me want to gain weight. Seeing how that game is played in the slot, and seeing possibly where I could fit into this offense this year.
"I knew that if I wanted to get on the field I was going to have to become a lot more physical than I have been in previous years."
When the Lions lost Theo Riddick toward the end of last year, they lost one of the most versatile weapons in football. He's typically among the leading pass catchers and yards after the catch earners for running backs every year.
Riddick missed the offseason as he recovered from wrist surgery, but has been a full participant in training camp, other than having to wear a no-contact red jersey.
"He's coming along well, just in terms of his cardiovascular shape," Caldwell said of Riddick. "He's in good shape. He's moving around out there. The only thing we're not allowing him to do is have contact, even though he went to the ground one time out there. But other than that, I think he's making good progress."
Riddick says he's still working himself back to where he needs to be, which is exactly what camp is meant to do.
"I'm still working," Riddick said. "I dropped one today. I was pissed. But, I've been doing well so far, so hopefully that continues."
If he and Ameer Abdullah can stay healthy all season, they have the potential to form a very dangerous one-two punch in Detroit's backfield because of their versatility.
Players still on PUP: DE Ziggy Ansah, DE Armonty Bryant, T Taylor Decker, G Brandon Thomas and T Corey Robinson
Players still on NFI: P Sam Martin
Not practicing Friday were: Tight end Eric Ebron, guard T.J. Lang, receiver Ryan Spadola, linebacker Thurston Armbrister, running back Mike James and defensive end Cornelius Washington.
Tight end Cole Wick left the field during 7-on-7s and did not return.
View photos from 2017 Detroit Lions training camp practice on Aug. 4, 2017.