Bulked-up TJ Jones finds his niche with Lions

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

Allen Park — It’s been a long road and a slow process for wide receiver TJ Jones, but in his fourth season, he’s finally carved out a steady role in the Lions’ offense.

“I’m enjoying it as much as anyone can,” Jones said. “It’s the biggest role I’ve had in my four years. Just being able to be out there on a somewhat consistent basis and make plays, helping this team win as opposed to just watching and practicing, it’s a feeling that’s a long time coming.

“I’m trying to making the best of every opportunity, every play that I get.”

Jones has been particularly sharp out of the Lions’ bye. He set a career-high with 88 receiving yards against the Steelers. And against the Bears, he was Detroit’s best option when the offense got in a jam. He finished with four catches on the five balls thrown his way for 55 yards.

A sixth-round draft pick in 2014, Jones missed his entire rookie year with a lingering nerve issue that impacted his ability to catch. He played sparingly in 2015 and with the general manager who invested in him out of the job, Jones didn’t even make the team out of camp last year.

The Lions asked Jones to bulk up when they cut him and he took the message to heart. The weight he added this offseason has helped him take his game to a new level this season.

Jones’ said his newfound durability isn’t an accident. From sun up to sun down, every day, he works to maintain his body’s performance, applying tricks of the trade he’s picked up from the veterans he’s shared a locker room with in Detroit — from Calvin Johnson to Anquan Boldin to Lance Moore.

“I pick everyone’s brain,” Jones said. “And if they’re doing something that I’m not, I’m going to test it out. If I like it, it’s right in my regiment. You can never have too many ways to recover.”

Jones has also put in a great deal of effort into refining his playing techniques and it’s shown in his noticeably crisper route running. He admits he viewed himself as a decent route runner while in college, but knew decent at that level wouldn’t get the job done in the NFL.

Jones is peaking at the right time, more than doubling his career production with 24 receptions for 372 yards. He’s an unrestricted free agent this offseason.