Niner Noise moves along with our “Who Is?” series on San Francisco 49ers players in 2017. In this installment, we look at veteran safety Don Jones and whether he’ll find a new home with the Niners.
Veteran defensive back Don Jones has had a tough time finding a permanent home in the NFL.
He’s hoping the San Francisco 49ers provide him that opportunity.
Jones, a seventh-round draft pick of the Miami Dolphins back in 2013, has seen his fair share of teams before signing as a free agent with the Niners back on March 10:
Primarily a special teams ace, this is likely the role San Francisco envisions for him as the team looks to revamp this group heading into 2017.
But there are some questions at safety too, particularly the strong side, entering this season. Is it possible Jones fits in here as well?
Let’s take a look.
San Francisco 49ers
Why He’ll Improve
Jones was a noteworthy contributor for the Houston Texans on special teams last year, logging a team-leading 11 tackles within this particular unit.
That’s the kind of production the Niners would like to get, if Jones is able to make the roster, and it would be nice to see him provide some decent depth at strong safeties Eric Reid and Jaquiski Tartt.
Jones also brings another likable attribute to the table — speed. At his pro day back in 2013, Jones ran a 4.40 40-yard time and the 20-yard shuttle in 4.48 seconds.
This kind of speed could make the 27 year old a nice gunner on special teams units.
Why He’ll Regress
Jones’ 5-foot-11, 205-pound frame is slightly undersized for regular work at strong safety, so we probably shouldn’t expect much from him there. Maybe a third-tier option at best.
His special teams efforts last year are noteworthy, but these numbers represent only the high point in his NFL career thus far. It isn’t as if we’ve seen this with any sort of regularity, and the Niners may try to stash more promising players within this unit instead of using a roster spot on Jones.
The fact teams haven’t kept him around for long speaks to his worthiness of holding onto a roster spot. But equally true is how other teams have been quick to pick him up. Make of that what you will.
What to Expect in 2017
It’s hard to project what the likely impact will be for a player known primarily for special teams and little else.
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On one hand, his speed is something the 49ers would rather have on this unit, and it’s good he’s found a home — even if not for the long run — since being drafted. There aren’t any significant gaps in playing time.
Yet the Niners also brought in a sizable crop of undrafted free agents. These may wind up being the players to round out San Francisco’s 53-man roster when the season starts, meaning Jones could be out of the job.
As of now, he’s probably on the weak bubble to make the roster.
If he does, look for him to be a regular guest on the Niners special teams unit and little more.