Jones Adds New Dimension to Jets RB Attack
By Brian Bohl
HEMPSTED, NY- Pound for pound, Thomas Jones is perhaps the strongest player on the Jets roster.
Standing with his sleeves rolled up after working out with his new team after completing drills during an Organized Team Activity a few weeks ago, the veteran running back displayed the massive biceps and increased strength that he hopes will lead his new team to postseason success.
Even before adding the extra bulk, Jones was expected to be the answer to an offense that struggled to find a consistent rushing attack to complement quarterbacks Chad Pennington.
As the feature back for the NFC-champion Bears, Jones rushed for 1,210 yards on 296 carries for a 4.1 yards-per-carry average to help Chicago reach the Super Bowl.
Though the Jets finished 10-6 and qualified for the postseason, the leading rusher was rookie Leon Washington, who amassed 650 yards on just 151 carries.
With the division-rival Patriots adding former Pro Bowl receiver Randy Moss, Jones' acquisition could bolster an offense that retained leading wide outs Laveranues Coles and Jerricho Cotchery.
"He's an exciting player," Pennington said. "We're going to do everything we can to make sure we put him in a successful position.
"He's a physical specimen.
The best thing about Thomas is his work ethic. He's never the first guy out. He's always standing there doing a little extra."
Eric Mangini doesn't usually dole out praise, especially to a player still working on making his team debut. But the stoic coach praised Jones' offseason workout regime without any prompting, though it will be his legs that can help determine if the Jets can advance beyond the wildcard round they were eliminated in last season.
"Every time I go to the weight room, he's there," Mangini said.
After proving that he can play a full season without suffering an injury, Pennington should face less pressure since opposing defenses will need to account for Jones and Washington, who could be used as a change-of-pace-back in his sophomore year.
Jones is coming off consecutive 1,000-rushing yard seasons, during which the eight-year veteran recorded 15 touchdown runs.
"The offense that we run gives me a lot of opportunities to get the ball in the open field and do some things out there," Jones said. "Chicago's offense was a little more...we were pretty predictable as far as the running game. Our philosophy was, 'Let's do what we do,' and that's run the ball.
"We have some great players on offense. We have a lot of guys who can make plays."
Jones, who looks bigger than his listed weight of 5-10, 220-pounds, rushed for an additional 301 yards in the postseason, where the Bears eventually lost to the Colts for the championship.
The former Virginia star will turn 29 in August but still should be in his prime after playing sparingly during his first four seasons in the National Football League.
He was a backup for his first three seasons with the Arizona Cardinals before starting just three of 16 games in his lone year with Tampa Bay in 2003. Jones finally rushed over 200 times in a single season in 2004 after coming to Chicago, and said he hopes he can finally win a championship with his fourth professional team.
"The Super Bowl is a long-time removed for me," Jones said. "With me being here in New York and getting settled in and getting used to the offense; that's all I've been focusing on. I'm here just focusing on knowing what I'm doing in the playbook and working as hard as I can in the weight room."