O'HARA: Jones in the thick of intense battle at WR

Running pass patterns in one OTA drill, then switching over to run downfield on kickoff coverage simulated regular-season game conditions for Andy Jones.

That’s exactly what Jones did for the Detroit Lions in a game last season.

He caught a four-yard pass for a touchdown and a 6-0 lead over the Bills in Week 15. It was the first touchdown of his career, but Jones did not rest on his laurels.

Jones took his position on the coverage team for the ensuing kickoff and raced downfield to tackle Bills return man Isaiah McKenzie at the 13 after an eight-yard return.

The Bills converted the possession into a touchdown in what was ultimately a 14-13 victory, but that sequence and Jones’ overall performance in the game is part of what has put him in the thick of an intense battle for roles and roster spots in a large field of receivers.

For the game, Jones had two catches for nine yards while playing 45 of 57 offensive snaps, second most of any Lions receiver next to Kenny Golladay’s 52. Jones also had two tackles on special teams while playing 11 snaps.

For Jones, double or triple duty – or any multiple – is part of the skill set that he brings to a team.

“It’s just being able to do what they ask me, for the most part,” Jones said. “If they want me to block, I’m going to block. If they want me to run a route. I’m going to run a route. If they want me to catch the ball, I’m going to catch the ball.

“It’s just being versatile enough to do whatever they tell me to do. Special teams – all of it.”

Jones was matter-of-fact in talking about his different roles on the team and his willingness to perform them. That attitude is part of what makes him a solid prospect as one of 13 wide receivers on the roster when the offseason program ended.

There’s a long way to go – training camp, preseason games, injuries and potential player acquisitions – before final roster decisions are made.

Jones made an impact with his play late last season, as did Brandon Powell and some others.

Both finished strong. In a final-game road victory over the Packers, Powell had six catches for 103 yards. Jones had six for 50.

Jones doesn’t expect anything he did last season to have any carryover to this year. He was limited to eight games because of an injury and finished with 11 catches for 80 yards and the one TD.

“It was good to play last season, but last season was last season,” he said. “This is a new year. It’s learning the playbook, learning all the new stuff we have now.

“That’s the mindset moving forward.”

It's a good mindset to have.

"It’s hard to get through final separation until we go through training camp and see evaluation of what everyone looks like,” said head coach Matt Patricia. “Andy in general is obviously someone that has been around here and has worked extremely hard.

“He’s been very adaptable to a lot of different positions that he’s been asked to play. He’s a guy that goes in multiple different facets of the game on offense. Special teams is a big part also, which is a big contribution to what he does.

“He’s a big guy (6-1, 215). He strong, powerful. He’s tough. He’s smart. Those are all good attributes that will allow him to go in and compete.”

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