For most Minnesota Vikings rookies, Thursday night’s preseason game against the Buffalo Bills represents a chance to show they belong. For wide receiver Cayleb Jones, it’s the chance of a lifetime: to share the field with his brother Zay, a wideout who was drafted in the second round this year by the Bills.
“Definitely a dream come true for me and him and for our family,” Cayleb said. “I’m so excited.”
Cayleb and Zay come from an impressive football lineage. Their father, Robert, played linebacker for 10 years in the NFL with the Cowboys, Rams, Dolphins and Redskins. The young receivers’ uncle, Jeff Blake, was a starting quarterback in the NFL.
“We were extremely competitive growing up,” Cayleb said. “I feel like we competed in everything, from who was wearing cooler shoes to who was the best at video games. Typical brother stuff.”
While the brothers have never matched up on a stage as big as New Era Field, Zay said that facing off with Cayleb will be a familiar feeling.
“I competed against my brother every single day,” Zay said. “We played on the same team in Pop Warner, but, obviously, this will be the first professional time that we go against each other.”
Cayleb, a former standout at Arizona, has shown flashes in camp, using his 6-foot-3 frame to create separation. He said Zay, a highly touted draft prospect who caught an FBS-record 158 passes last season at East Carolina, has a different skill set.
“He’s more quick-twitch, he’s better in the slot as far as some of his routes,” Cayleb said. “I’m a longer strider. We have different games. Now, we’re kind of similar in size, but we’re really different players. He does a lot of stuff well. He runs great routes, blocks well, great hustler.”
“I’m sure Cayleb and I will share a couple words, but during the game it’s going to be about trying to outdo each other and compete,” Zay said.
Cayleb is fighting for a career in the NFL. He was in camp with the Philadelphia Eagles last season but did not make the team. The 24-year-old is battling with draft picks Rodney Adams and Stacy Coley for a spot down the Vikings' depth chart at receiver.
“Understanding concepts better, understanding how training camp works, when to exert energy, when to rest, when to recover,” he said. “The biggest thing is to capitalize [on the opportunity], especially the young guys on the spot, to capitalize on special teams, do what you’re supposed to do offensively.
“It is fun to play my brother, but I’m trying to win a job.”
There’s a chance the Jones family will attend brother-vs.-brother games for a long time. Younger brother Levi, a four-star prospect linebacker, is an incoming freshman linebacker at USC.
ESPN Bills reporter Mike Rodak contributed to this report.