Zay Jones has changed locations twice within the last year and he's ready to find a home.
The Raiders were confident in their receiving corps headed into the regular season last year, but following the release of Antonio Brown, General Manager Mike Mayock quickly sought to find a solution via trade.
One month later, Mayock managed to acquire former Reese's Senior Bowl standout Zay Jones from the Buffalo Bills in exchange for a 2021 draft pick. It's no secret Derek Carr's receivers struggled last year and Jones is no exception, but the former East Carolina product was thrown into a new playbook midseason and was forced to adjust on the fly — that's a lot to ask of any skill player.
"When you come into a middle of a season and try to learn someone's playbook, there are small details that you may miss just naturally because it's just so much," Jones explained to the media Wednesday. "There is a lot of language, a lot of verbiage that goes into it. So, it being my second year essentially with the playbook, understanding what all is going to go into it, now I can be more versatile. Now I can move inside, now I can move outside. I can go X, I can go Z. And I can really understand the language of things and get these details down."
For Jones, understanding the ins and outs of the playbook was toward the top of his priority list this offseason, but for him to execute it the way he's capable of, he had to build chemistry with Derek Carr.
Part of the offense's struggles last season stemmed from the inconsistency around Carr, which he's alluded to several times since 2019. Despite the restrictions of COVID, Carr reached out to a handful of teammates about setting up player-organized workouts in Las Vegas, which Jones was adamant about attending.
View photos from the Raiders practice at Intermountain Healthcare Performance Center during 2020 Training Camp.
"I wanted to get to Vegas as soon as possible," Jones said. "Just commit to making this a home for myself, and establishing that relationship especially with 'D.C.' [Derek Carr] It was different from last year, transitioning into a team not really knowing anybody. Those are conversations that you would usually have in the offseason didn't take place for me, so I was kind of playing catchup with the team all last year.
"This summer was very important for me just to get around the guys, especially get around him and understand his language, the way he talks. Just building a genuine relationship with him even outside of football, because the football stuff is going to take care of itself."
The strength of Jones' game lies in his speed and agility, and to get back to a place where he feels in peak condition, he cut weight this offseason. Dropping a few pounds has improved Jones' quickness and route running, which GM Mike Mayock has noticed.
"Could not be more proud of Nelson Agholor and Zay Jones to start with," he said Tuesday. "Nelson Agholor is on a mission, and Zay Jones is also. They're in as good of shape as any two players we have on the team. Their route running for both of them has improved. Their concentration has been outstanding and I think our coaches have a plan for those guys. It starts with those two guys and you say, 'Wow.' We can see a huge difference in Zay from last year to this year. I'm proud of the way he came to camp."
Now that Henry Ruggs III, Bryan Edwards, and Nelson Agholor are in the mix, it feels like Jones has been a forgotten member of the offense from the outside looking in, but in the eyes of the coaching staff, he's very much in the picture.
Determined to establish himself, Jones is settling into Las Vegas nicely.