Undrafted Tight End Justin Jones Learning Under Rob Gronkowski at Patriots Camp

As a 6’8″ undrafted rookie tight end, Justin Jones is looking to make his play stand apart at Patriots training camp. (Photo: Oliver Thomas)

NEPD Editor: Oliver Thomas

Justin Jones has a natural advantage over the defenders covering him at New England Patriots training camp. But for the 6’8”, 275-pound undrafted tight end, it’s about learning to get the most out of it.

He has one to learn from in the 6’6”, 265-pound Rob Gronkowski.

“Gronk does a really good job of using his body when he’s coming through defenders,” Jones said after Saturday’s practice at Gillette Stadium. “Guys trying to get a jam on him, you know that doesn’t really faze him too often.”

Jones knows that the two-time Pro Bowler is hard to replicate. Yet he also knows that his stature is similar.

That stature helped Jones catch 52 passes for 598 yards and 12 touchdowns over 32 games at East Carolina, before he was ruled academically ineligible for 2013. When he was on the field, though, his length opened passing windows.

“I mean a lot of times it just comes to using our bodies, and using a little bit of a box out and post up when turning around and stuff like that,” said Jones.

In order for those passing windows to continue to open for the 22-year-old, who has basketball and track in his background, he has to use his body to get in the right position downfield. And then he has to secure the pass.

Getting in the right position and securing passes are things Gronkowski has been able to do for 226 receptions, 3,255 yards and 42 touchdowns over 50 NFL regular-season games. Yet even after missing 12 regular-season contests over the last two years, Jones still sees his teammate’s effectiveness on display in camp.

“He’s done a really good job with his forearm and his injuries, still using his near arm, shaking off defenders and getting open at the top of his route,” Jones said of No. 87, who has been participating in individual drills alongside him this July.

Now Jones split wide during his three seasons on the field with the Pirates. His presence down in the red zone also drew significant attention in the Conference USA.

Those are aspects that carry over when he looks at Gronkowski’s game.

“In the red zone, Gronk’s a monster, so something you get excited about is being split out,” Jones added.

“You see all the things you can do with him, and that’s something that really impacted my decision to come here. Something I feel like was the best opportunity, and that’s the type of football I play.”

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13 Responses to “Undrafted Tight End Justin Jones Learning Under Rob Gronkowski at Patriots Camp”

  1. Kevan says:

    From what I hear Jones has been doing pretty good with blocking. I think the roster spot comes down to him and DJ Williams, who is actually playing pretty well right now too. Alot of roster projections have the Pats going with just 2 TEs but I think there is going to be three. It would be really nice to have a red zone package with Gronk, Jones, Dobson, Lafell.

  2. BrianD says:

    I’ll temper my enthusiasm concerning Jones – I got all excited about Zach Sudfeld last year and look what happened.

    • Jack T says:

      Yesterday Zach caught a TD pass from Michael Vick and the Jet’s 2nd round pick, TE Jace Amaro, went down with a knee injury in practice.

    • MaineMan says:

      I can understand that.

      To me, there’s something that just feels different about Jones.

      Last year, Suds was coming in off a hot streak and maybe made the roster partly because the Pats were caught short with the sudden absence of Hernandez almost at the last minute.

      This year, Jones (who was apparently being scouted by the Pats in 2011 and 2012) is coming off an academically-ineligible year, has had to fight tooth and nail – through the Regional Combine cattle calls – just to get an opportunity.

      I’m thinking that, IF Jones survives final cuts, it’s because he’s for real.

      • DMC413 says:

        Real in what fashion? As a blocking TE or just a Red-Zone target? Reading some of the recently written articles on him the “silver lining” pins him as the second coming of Gronk if he can improve slightly on his blking/route-running and catches on to the offense, IDK!?!?!

    • MaineMan says:

      According to ESPN NY, Suds has been the Jets’ “most impressive” TE in their Camp so far, while Amaro has reportedly looked “lost” and is now sidelined with a knee issue.

      Thought you might get a laugh out of that one.

      • DMC413 says:

        Was somewhat disturbed when the R.A.T.S snatched him off waivers from us last year, ok, im lieing I was pissed to say the very least.

        Felt Zach S would of been good for us down the stretch, the game just needed to slow down for him.

        I aspect Amaro to seem lost at this point during his rookie campaign but once he catches on he should be “what they thought he be”(In my Dennis Green voice) when they drafted him. However it appears then that team will have two guys with the same exact skill-set… If that is the case I don’t imagine ZS getting burn-time over Amaro. Should of just kept his ___ in NE!

        • steve earle says:

          Right, agree about Sud being grabbed by Jest, opps jets. He has some inate talent and thought Bill should have kept him on board longer and try to let him catch up with the game. Still he mostly rode the pine in NY. After this year we may be regetting loosing him though,,,,, or not as it goes.

  3. Jack T says:

    BTW check out the newest guy, Cole Stanford, Cal Poly, three position player with brains who can catch and defend (WR, HB, LB). He could prove valuable late in the season if we go thru another rash of injuries.

  4. Jack T says:

    Interesting that alliterative man is that slow in the forty and that fast in the reaction drills. You’re right, GM-in-Training. No one in the league will be out-jumping him; if he can catch, his forty time’s irrelevant in short yardage situations. Glad to finally see a report on one of the UDFAs. Nary a mention anywhere else. Good job, Oliver.

  5. GM-in-Training says:

    If he can work the mismatch and secure the ball in the red zone, I’d take him as a slot receiver. Blocking could come later. His 6.88 3-cone and 37″ vertical and height should make up for his 4.9 40 dash.

    • steve earle says:

      Good points GM, anything can happen but I wonder who they might release in order to keep him? What a problem, we have an excess of very gifted rookies and second year players on a solid vet team. No wonder Jest’s hate us so ( insert sadistic chuckle here).

      • GM-in-Training says:


        Basically, I think his value comes down to red zone efficiency. Gronk is first choice, but it’s great to have a second choice and/or understudy for such a crucial capability as red zone efficiency.

        As to who is less important than a #2 red zone threat with lots of upside in run support and chain moving? I’d rate the role as more important than the #6 receiver and the number #7 defensive back.

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