Checking the box score after the Giants’ first preseason bout against the Jets last Thursday, it wasn’t Cody Latimer, Bennie Fowler, or Russell Shepard that led the receivers columns.
It was TJ Jones.
The five-year veteran, who spent all his NFL seasons with the Lions after being drafted in the sixth round back in 2014, finished the night with six receptions for 72 yards and a touchdown. His score came on a back-shoulder pass from Alex Tanney that Jones tracked down perfectly and fell into the end zone to tally six points on the board.
Jones joined the Giants just a couple weeks ago, as the wide receiving corps became depleted with Corey Coleman lost for the season with an ACL tear and Sterling Shepard fracturing his thumb. But he hasn’t come into training camp with the mindset of just being a replacement.
He wants to prove that he can contribute on the 53-man roster throughout the season.
“I think that the opportunity, when its presented you make it what you want it to,” Jones told reporters on Wednesday. “If you come in leaving here, just a camp body then that’s what you put out on film. You won’t believe you have a shot so you won’t put your best foot forward, but if you come in with the mindset that I’m here to earn a spot, to earn a job whether it’s here to put out good film or if I were let go for someone else to see good film. That’s on you, so I came to make the best of the opportunity and to definitely not let the timing of it, kind of affect the way I approached it.”
Jones may be further down on the depth chart due to being the new kid on the block, but the Giants are well aware of his tenure in the league. And not only does that give him an advantage, but the man that he could replace during the first four games of the season in Golden Tate can vouch for him as well.
Tate and Jones were both teammates during their time in Detroit. Jones said that Tate “took me under his wing,” so coming to New York was easier from knowing that a former mentor was there.
“I’ve been to his house, I’ve hung out with his family, vice versa and having him here to kind of help my transition definitely helped me, eased me into the process which if you would have lost sight of what the bigger goal was. You could’ve got lost in the ” I’m here I need to catch up, camps coming, oh I’m behind” so great dude, great dude I have nothing but good things to say about him, nothing but love for him and his family and you know I feel for him.”
Of course, Jones saying he feels for Tate stems from him losing his appeal to his four-game suspension. But, while many would view Tate’s absence as an advantage for Jones, he isn’t doing the same.
Instead, he is just focused on making the team outright — no matter what injuries and suspensions affect the Giants.
“I’m keeping my head down and focusing on what I can control and making sure that I do everything right and then when the time comes the coaches and front office will make their moves or whatever adjustments they need to make,” Jones explained.
Already tacking on a great first impression, Jones has another opportunity to showcase his abilities to his new team in MetLife Stadium against the Bears on Friday night. And he knows he’ll need to continue posting numbers like that if he wishes to stay in a Big Blue uniform when Week 1 rolls around.
“It’s definitely a good first step for me coming in late and kind of forcing myself to get acclimated in a shorter than ideal time period,” Jones said about his first game, “but definitely a stepping stone leading into this week and these next couple of games.”