49ers’ 2018 ‘Who Is?’ series: Defensive back Don Jones

Niner Noise’s 2018 “Who Is?” series looks at a veteran member of the San Francisco 49ers secondary, defensive back Don Jones, and what he projects to do this season.

 

Aside from Richard Sherman, Jaquiski Tartt, K’Waun Williams and Jimmie Ward, the San Francisco 49ers secondary is pretty young.

Youth can be a good thing, yet there’s always a bonus with veteran presence. And here is where 28-year-old defensive back Don Jones comes into play.

Jones, who broke into the NFL with the Miami Dolphins as a seventh-round NFL Draft pick back in 2013, bounced around the league quite a bit before being signed by the Niners in March of 2017. Unfortunately, his first year with the red and gold finished with a season-ending ACL injury in September.

Don Jones Defense & Fumbles Table
GameGameDefFumbFumbFumbFumbFumbSackSack
YearAgeTmPosNo.GGSPDFFFmbFRYdsTDTklAstAV
201323MIA36160100001011
2014242TM1301100
MIA3840500
NWE2990600
2015252TM1400
NOR30500
CLE35900
2016262TM1311
CLE35400
HOUs20911
2 yr2 yrCLE1300
2 yr2 yrMIA200100001511
1 yr1 yrHOU911
1 yr1 yrNOR500
1 yr1 yrNWE90600
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/4/2018.

 

The Niners brought aboard Jones to provide depth last season and, more importantly, for his work on special teams. His injury negated any looks the team hoped to receive, though.

Yet will that change this upcoming season? Does Jones have a chance at a roster spot in 2018?

Let’s take a look.

 

Why Don Jones Improves in 2018

There are two specific attributes making the 5-foot-11, 195-pound Jones stand out — versatility and speed.

Jones ran a 4.40 40-yard time at his pro day back in 2013, which is more than adequate to keep up with the majority of defensive backs he’d face. Perhaps not in a starting role, but it’s not bad for a depth option.

And while his frame isn’t ideally suited for outside play, operating at a nickel corner position or as a free safety is plausible.

On top of that, Pro Football Focus gave Jones a plus-2.0 grade for his efforts on punt plays in 2016. If Jones hopes to make the roster, this area will be vital.

 

Why He Regresses

First, Jones has yet to find a long-term home. That’s always concerning but not unusual for career special teamers.

Despite the aforementioned abilities in punt coverage and protection, Jones’ PFF numbers on special teams haven’t always been great. Overall, he has a minus-20.0 mark here, which doesn’t bode well for his roster chances:

Don Jones PFF

In comparison, another 49ers special teams ace, Raheem Mostert, had a plus-6.0 overall PFF mark in this same category over 11 games last season.

If it came down to a roster spot between Mostert and Jones, it’s easy to make the call.

 

Chances of Making the 49ers’ 53-Man Roster in 2018

Jones’ versatility and experience on special teams are valuable. And even though he spent all of last season on injured reserve, having the one year of experience working within San Francisco’s defensive scheme gives Jones something of a leg up on the team’s primarily young defensive backs.

Despite this, though, Jones still has a long way to go.

Right now, he’s easily on the bubble, possibly on the weaker side. The best chances he stands to make the roster this season would be to make a serious impact on special teams. Even then, it might take an injury or two to open up another spot.

If that doesn’t happen, Jones likely finds himself looking for yet another suitor this upcoming season.