Jones ‘ready’ to follow in Carter’s footsteps
Duron Carter has company.
Not only have the Saskatchewan Roughriders continued to deploy their most accomplished receiver as a cornerback, the CFL club also seems open to the possibility of using standout return man Christion Jones in the defensive backfield.
It’s not the first time Jones has practised with the Riders’ defence, but he did get his most extensive reps this week as an “emergency DB” while preparing for Thursday’s clash with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
“It’s all about being ready,” Jones explained. “That’s my job right now, whether it’s offence or defence. I’m just making sure I’m ready to go whenever it’s time.”
If the time comes Thursday, so be it.
“That’s what I’m hoping; I’m definitely prepared,” continued Jones, who worked with the secondary during his time at the University of Alabama but never saw any game action.
“All my life I practised at both receiver and DB because of my skill set. I’m definitely familiar with the position. In terms of the CFL, it’s a little bit different when it comes to how the game is played. But other than that, a defensive back is a defensive back — stop the guy from catching the ball.”
Although he anticipates a smooth transition, Jones has already been comparing notes with Carter, who’s slated to make his third consecutive start on the corner.
“We talk about it a lot,” said Jones. “That’s my roommate so we talk about things like that. We’re just playmakers. That’s what we pride ourselves on.”
Jones also takes pride in being able to play multiple positions. Along with his responsibilities as a returner, Jones is listed on the Riders’ depth chart as a backup receiver and also has experience as a tailback.
“Having versatile guys is very, very important for us as a team,” Jones said. “It’s always good to have two or three guys like me and Duron who can play both sides of the ball in case things happen. It’s a long season.”
Jones is already a valuable contributor on special teams, ranked No. 3 in the CFL in both punt-return average (14.5) and kickoff-return average (24.3).
The 25-year-old speedster leads the CFL with 531 combined yards even though he hasn’t seen any action on offence.
Not yet, anyway.
“I never campaign for anything,” Jones insisted. “I allow them to evaluate me and when they evaluate me and see that I can do multiple things, I’m the emergency guy. Whatever you need me to do. I have a significant position on this team as the returner so, if we can keep that the way it is as a team, we’re doing a great job. If not, we have to make some adjustments and we’re able to do that.”
According to head coach and GM Chris Jones, the only reason his primary returner has yet to see action on offence or defence is because the team is wary of increasing his workload. Jones remembers being on the Montreal Alouettes’ staff when they made that mistake with Ezra Landry and Keith Stokes, both of whom saw their return games suffer after getting more touches on offence.
“That’s why we don’t play (Christion) a lot,” said the Riders’ boss, who nonetheless won’t hesitate to alter that approach if the situation demands it. “He’s a guy who’s extremely versatile and he’s a very physical football player. I’d put him in (as a DB) in a second. He can play.”