Velus Jones Jr. was a divisive player going into the NFL draft. Some evaluators loved him. They loved his mental makeup, speed, strength, and natural playmaking instincts. Others didn’t like him. They felt he took far too long in college to do anything productive as a wide receiver and didn’t really stand out when he finally did. Combine that with him being on the older side, and it’s easy to see why experts jabbed the Chicago Bears for taking him in the 3rd round.
If one thing had people struggling to jump on the Jones bandwagon, it was his route-running. Lance Zierlein of NFL.com had several problems with it, from the bad footwork, mechanical stride length, and lack of decisive drive off the snap. When asked about it during his latest presser, even Jones himself admitted there were issues. The biggest to him was the inability to get in and out of his cuts with desired quickness. Not being able to do so robbed him of his greatest asset: his speed.
Jones explained how coaches have set about fixing that.
“I’ve just really been focusing on dropping my hips. Cuts are way easier when you’re actually focused on dropping your hips and having your chest out over your knees, and so that’s something I’ve really been working on. And I’ve been really improving on that, and it shows on film when we watch it, how quickly I’m getting in and out of cuts, and I feel like that’s a huge advantage on my side, just knowing what I can do when I get the ball in my hands.”
Velus Jones knows speed alone won’t save him.
Everybody in the NFL is fast. While his 4.31 speed is rare even for the professional level, the reality is pro cornerbacks are on a totally different level from college. This isn’t even accounting for the more diverse and intricate defensive schemes that can take speed vertical threats. That is why route-running is far more important to NFL success than speed or size. Look at Cooper Kupp and Davante Adams. Both are considered the best in the league right now and neither is the biggest or fastest.
They’re simply the two best route runners in the business. Velus Jones seems to understand that. If he wants to rank among the best in football, he can rely on his speed alone. Plenty of receivers that tried doing so didn’t last long. He must embrace the intricacies and detail of running a complex route tree. The beauty is he has an excellent coaching staff to help.
Offensive coordinator Luke Getsy is a former wide receivers coach and played a vital role in Adams’ development with the Green Bay Packers. Tyke Tolbert, the Bears’ new receivers coach, has a stellar track record, including a Super Bowl ring and multiple Pro Bowlers. If Jones does what he is told and the light goes on, there might be no stopping him.