Redskins' Matt Jones discovered early he couldn't run like Eric Dickerson

Matt Jones lowered his shoulders at times, but the running back wants to work on that a lot this offseason. AP Photo/Mark Tenally

ASHBURN, Va. – Washington Redskins running back Matt Jones used to watch Eric Dickerson run and mimicked his style. The problem: Dickerson ran upright and Jones isn’t, well, Dickerson. Thus Jones learned a valuable lesson. To succeed in the NFL, he had to alter his running style.

It was just one of a handful of lessons Jones learned that he hopes produces a strong second season. Jones finished his first season with 490 yards rushing, averaging only 3.4 yards per carry, and another 304 receiving. But he also missed three games with a hip pointer, as well as the playoff loss to Green Bay.

“It’s going to stick with me the whole offseason,” Jones said. “That feeling inside that I couldn’t play the playoff game. I want to get back, so I have a lot of work this offseason.”

A lot of that work will be applying what he learned this past fall, starting with his running style. The coaches harped on him needing to run lower through the hole, using his pads to run through defenders rather than allowing them a clean shot at his mid-section.

“Sometimes coming out of college I was inconsistent getting downhill,” Jones said. “When I was growing up I used to watch Eric Dickerson. He ran kind of high and just watching him I brought it to the field. Nowadays you have to protect your body out there. Definitely in camp Coach [Jay] Gruden would tell me to get my pads down. But I was like, that’s how I run. But going through the preseason and first couple games, I was like, yeah I have to get my pads down before I get eaten up. The adjustment was hard at first.”

Later in the season there were times Jones ran with much better pad level, but other times he’d revert to old habits. In the spring, Jones said he also studied Darren Sproles but the Redskins wanted him to run more like Marshawn Lynch, punishing defenders when possible.

“When I see two defenders in the hole, I have to drop my pads and try to run them over and get every yard I can get,” Jones said. “If I see green grass, I’m just trying to get through no matter what, so I might be upright and take a blind hit. It varies with a running back. When you see [Adrian Peterson], he gets his pads down all the time.”

Another lesson Jones learned involved taking care of his body, something he mentioned earlier in the season having learned from veterans such as Alfred Morris. Jones said he altered his routine on days off, incorporating cold tubs.

“Early in the season I’d go home and lay down and think I’d be cool,” Jones said. “And then later in the week I’d be tired and my body was feeling lazy. Going in on my off days helped me get better.”

The Redskins could use more from Jones next season. Morris is a free agent and certainly no guarantee to return, as the Redskins want more from their starting backs.

“I think I can be a huge asset to this team,” Jones said. “I truly believe that, man. I can help more now that I’m learning the game. I can be a huge help.”