JACKSONVILLE – This is special.
Zay Jones may not have fully realized it immediately, but he knew quickly – and he absolutely appreciates this opportunity, this franchise, these teammates and coaches.
"The most important thing is we have a chance to win and a great chance to win," the veteran receiver said this week as the 2022 AFC South Champion Jaguars prepared to play the Indianapolis Colts in the 2023 regular-season opener at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Ind.
"That's where I'm at in my career now."
Jones, a locker-room leader entering his second season with the Jaguars, spoke to senior writer John Oehser for this Week 1 2023 O-Zone Podcast. He discussed multiple topics, including the task of balancing expectations with reality as the 2023 season approaches.
"There are layers to it," Jones said. "We are obviously confident because of experiences we've gone through, the way we've come together as a football unit, knowing each other. We can see the potential of us. But there is still a humbleness about the guys in the locker room understanding that this thing starts over and you have to prove it each and every day.
"There's a beautiful balance between confidence enough to go out here and know we can get the job done, but humble enough to understand that nothing's truly given to us."
Jones, a second-round selection by the Buffalo Bills in the 2017 NFL Draft, caught a career-high 82 passes for 823 yards and five touchdowns in 2022 after signing with the Jaguars as an unrestricted free agent during the 2022 offseason. He is part of a receiving corps that includes tight end Evan Engram, wide receiver Christian Kirk and wide receiver Calvin Ridley among others.
It's a group that includes two 1,000-yard receivers – Kirk and Ridley – and a tight end in Engram with two hundred-plus-yard games last season. Jones also said it's a group to which numbers matter less than team results.
"We want to play well." Jones said. "Guys want big numbers and touchdowns, but you have to try to do your best to put things in perspective of the longevity of a year, what it takes from each individual on this team to get to our ultimate goal.
"We just try to do our best to root each other on. That doesn't mean that we don't want to make the play."
Jones, who played two-plus seasons for the Bills and two-plus for the Oakland/Las Vegas Raiders before signing with the Jaguars, said his NFL experience has taught him enough to value his current situation.
"I couldn't say I saw all of this before signing," he said. "That's not the truth. Honestly, I kind of compare it to the [Los Angeles] Chargers game (a 27-point come-from-behind victory in an AFC Wild Card playoff game in January) a little bit. It's like you saw things unfolding and started to believe and just put one foot in front of the other. It's like, 'OK, this is something special.'
"After being here and really buying in – and I mean from top down, from ownership to front office, to the coaches, to the players – there's no place I'd rather play in the NFL right now than here.
Listen to the entire O-Zone Podcast with Jones below, to listen to more O-Zone Podcast episodes, click HERE.