Just moments before Seantavius Jones made one of the best catches of training camp a week ago, the 6-foot-3, 200-pound receiver turned on the jets, spotted the ball in the air and thought what he always does in situations like this:
“Anytime I see the ball up, in my head, I’m thinking it’s mine,” Jones said. “So whatever way I’ve got to catch it, I’ve got to catch it.”
Even if the throw is a little behind him, as this one was, and even if the cornerback — hot in pursuit — is in position to make a play on the ball, as Trevon Hartfield was.
Jones, who has shown the ability to consistently track the deep ball dating back to his college days at Valdosta State, simply did what he had to to get it. Which was, in this case, to jump in the air and trap the ball, which was coming over his left shoulder, on that very same shoulder for a ridiculous catch that drew cheers from the fans in attendance.
“It just happened to be a little behind, so I just jumped up and caught it,” Jones explained with a grin. “I practice it all the time.”
When you hear Jones’ nickname is “Stretch,” and that he got it at a football camp in high school due to his ability, he says, to intercept passes as a safety, the fact the 24-year-old former undrafted free agent was able to make a difficult catch like the one described above makes a little more sense.
“I just carried it on to college,” Jones said of his nickname. “When I stood up to introduce myself as a freshman I said ‘My name is Seantavius Jones, but I go by Stretch.’ I always introduce myself as Stretch.”
Jones has lived up to the name in camp thus far. After a short stint with the Saints from 2014 to 2015, when he appeared in three games but didn’t catch any passes, Jones — who also had a short stint with the Eagles and spent the 2016 season on the Chiefs’ practice squad — has worked himself into getting the occasional second- and first-string reps over the last few weeks.
“We’ve kind of seen him grow a little bit to where he’s given himself a chance to get in there and work with the ones, at least in the rotation,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “Again, it’s important that he maintains that … he’s done some nice things, but now the defense goes and studies him. They watch some tape, now what are you going to come back with? Can you sustain this? That will be his challenge.”
Reid also likes the physical traits of Jones, who ran a 4.53 40-yard dash and vertical-jumped 38 1/2 inches at his pro day in 2014.
“He’s a big guy that can run and he attacks the ball, which I appreciate,” Reid said. “For the most part there’s trust. I think that’s a positive there.”
But if Jones is going to make the team out of camp, he — like the other backup receivers — will have to contribute on special teams, where it also sounds as if he’s faring well.
“Seantavius is doing a good job,” special-teams coach Dave Toub said. “You know he’s a big guy that can run. We’re thinking he can be a gunner for us. There are so many guys at the wide receiver position.”
Those comments, plus the bit of camp buzz he’s stirred, make Jones feel good. But he knows now is not the time to let his foot off the gas.
“I feel like I’m coming on, but I’m still staying humble at the same time, just to be honest with you, because I’ve got a lot of work to do,” Jones said. “I’m not there, yet. I mean, I see the progression. But I’ve still got to come out there every day and stack it.”
Specifically, Jones is working on his understanding of different coverages, and how those affect his routes. He’s also put an emphasis on attacking the ball in the air, like he did on the shoulder catch described above.
But while that catch was indeed spectacular, he didn’t get more than a “great catch — way to make a play” from receivers coach Greg Lewis when the team reviewed the tape later on. After all, there’s still so much improvement to make, so much to prove.
“Everybody’s trying to keep me level-headed,” Jones said with a laugh. “I (get that), though.”