2nd year tackle Adrian Jones (79) replaces the steady Kareem McKenzie (67) who crossed the river for big free agency dollars. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
So far through training camp most of the watchful eyes have been squinting and staring at Jets’ QB Chad Pennington for the obvious reasons. His right shoulder, which was surgically repaired in February, is still an enigma.
Yet while the slight tear in his rotator cuff is presumed to be fixed, the void on the right side of the Jets offensive line is yet to be patched up. With Kareem McKenzie’s departure to New York’s other football team, the right tackle slot must be shored up.
That albatross falls on the shoulders of Adrian Jones, who has yet to start an NFL game. Now he must be one of the watchdogs protecting the most valuable arm on the Jets roster.
Sure, no pressure, just step right in kid.
“I know it’s a process,” the second-year tackle said. “Everyday I just try to work on one thing at a time.”
Jones has a lot of ground to cover in a short time frame. In addition to not starting a game, the Jets fourth-round pick from 2004 entering only his third season at tackle. Before his senior season at Kansas, Jones hauled in passes as a tight end. However it was not an issue for Jones, who actually thinks there was a blessing in disguise.
“It helps me out quite a bit,” Jones said. “If I get beat it helps me recover or it helps me get back faster. Good footwork is a key thing.”
Footwork is essential for the undersized Jones, who at 6-foot-4 and 296 pounds must utilize speed. He pales physically compared to his predecessor McKenzie, who is 6-foot-6 and 327 pounds. That’s a huge chunk of meat to lose, but head coach Herman Edwards is not the least bit jittery.
“He’s athletic obviously and he has to play a lot of plays now and that’s different,” Edwards said, who added Jones has seen an array of defensive fronts in practice to gain exposure to varied game situations as possible.
As if that isn’t enough, Jones has never played right tackle. During his two seasons at the relatively new position, this season will be Jones’ first on the right side of the line. He shifts from covering the quarterback’s blind side and explained how the transition is like looking in a mirror, where everything is just flipped.
If Jones doesn’t perform up to snuff he knows the comparisons to McKenzie will pour over him, but he and his teammates refuses to fret.
“Obviously losing Kareem was a big deal,” center Kevin Mawae said. “Adrian will do well where he’s at…We have full confidence that he can get the job done.”
Jones said he hasn’t been hazed or initiated as a starter yet, but is keeping one eye open. “No there was no hazing or anything like that. They just messed with me about the newspaper articles and things like that. Nothing really crazy,” he said.
His teammates have every reason to feel secure in his ability, especially to bounce back. In 1999, Jones was involved in a car accident that hospitalized him for three days. Jones was the driver, while his brother and roommate the passengers.
The cause of the accident was a blown tire and Jones, not wearing his seatbelt, was launched about 50 feet. The biggest encumbrance for Jones was physical and mental grind. To play or not to play? That was Jones’ conundrum.
“The hardest thing for me was trying to get into that football mode,” said Jones, whose doctors were tentative on letting him get back on the field. “At that point I was just more or less thinking about the decision about whether or not to come back to football.”
But Jones realized quitting would forgo the second chance he was handed. He used the accident to fuel his desire to play in the NFL.
“I could not be here right now, I could not be walking. I could be a vegetable. I could be all kinds of things. Right now I really feel blessed about the position that I’m in,” he said.
And that position is starting right tackle for the Jets.
Jones surmised his situation by putting the onus on himself, saying: “It’s just like any other career. Everybody has expectations of you and you have to get it done. Just get it done.”