61 Days Until Vikings Football: Could Brett Jones Be an Option at Left Guard?

The Canadian and former New York Giant might not be more than a depth piece at this point.
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As we count down the days until the Vikings' opener against the Packers on September 13th, InsideTheVikings will be previewing every single player on the roster. The amount of days remaining corresponds with the jersey number of the player being examined on that day. Today is July 14th, and there are 61 days until kickoff for the 2020 regular season. That means our next preview looks at an interior lineman from Canada.

Countdown to Vikings-Packers on September 13th: 61 Days

Player Preview: Brett Jones (No. 61, Center)

  • College: Regina (Canada)
  • Drafted: 2013 UDFA
  • NFL experience: Five seasons (2020 will be his sixth)
  • Age: 29 (Birthday was in July)
  • Size: 6'2", 315
  • 2019 PFF grade: N/A

Of the 87 players currently on the Vikings' roster, just two were born outside of the United States. One of those is superstar defensive end Danielle Hunter, who was born in Jamaica. But Hunter moved to Texas at eight years old and spent all of his formative years there. In that sense, the most traditional international player on the roster is backup center Brett Jones.

Jones was born in Saskatchewan, Canada. Specifically, in a city called Weyburn, which has a population of just over 10,000 and is roughly 50 miles north of the Canada-North Dakota border. He grew up there, and attended the nearby University of Regina for his college years. Jones started 30 games on the offensive line for the Regina Rams between 2009 and 2012, and became a dominant force as an upperclassman.

In the 2013 Canadian Football League draft, Jones was a second-round pick of the Calgary Stampeders. He won the league's Most Outstanding Rookie Award in 2013, and then the Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman Award in 2014. Following that season, Jones was signed by the New York Giants in February 2015.

Jones' first season in the NFL came to a premature end due to an injury. He played in roughly 80 snaps as the Giants' backup center in 2016, and then finally got his chance to become an NFL starter the following season. Jones started 13 of the Giants' 16 games in 2017, playing nearly 1,000 snaps. Pro Football Focus gave him a good 70.2 grade, which ranked 15th out of 35 qualifying centers.

In August 2018, the Vikings traded a seventh-round pick to the Giants to acquire Jones. He started the first three games of the season while Pat Elflein was recovering from multiple offseason surgeries. In retrospect, the Vikings would've benefited from keeping Jones as the starter instead of handing the job back to Elflein, who graded out as PFF's worst center in the league that year

In 2019, the Vikings re-signed Jones, but also drafted Garrett Bradbury in the first round to be their starting center. Jones was outstanding in the preseason and made the initial 53-man roster as the team's backup center. He then was cut, but was brought back a week later. Ultimately, he ended up getting hurt and not playing at all during the season. Still, the Vikings decided to bring him back once again on a one-year, veteran minimum deal this offseason.

Where does that leave Jones heading into 2020? The most likely outcome is that he'll once again back up Bradbury at center, though he could get some competition from rookie seventh-rounder Kyle Hinton. However, it's also possible that Jones could factor into the competition to potentially replace Elflein at left guard. He has experience playing guard throughout his career, so it wouldn't be a difficult transition.

Jones has some pretty clear strengths and weaknesses. His biggest strength is that he's a fantastic pass protector on the interior; Jones received an 82.1 pass blocking grade from PFF during the 2017 season where he was a full-time starter, and has never had a pass blocking grade below 70. He also received incredibly high marks in that area during last year's preseason. Jones simply doesn't allow many pressures. He has great technique, power, and balance in 1-on-1 matchups with defensive tackles.

However, his main weakness might be a reason why he's unlikely to ever be a starter in Minnesota. Jones isn't particularly athletic, and struggles to get to the second level and make an impact there. Those limitations make him a decent-to-poor run blocker, which isn't ideal for the Vikings' run-heavy, zone-blocking scheme. This thread from Nick Olson has some great examples of Jones' strengths and weaknesses on tape:

Jones is essentially the polar opposite of Elflein, who is a good run-blocker but is a sieve in pass protection. The Vikings may want to find someone who can succeed in both areas to be their starting left guard; that person could potentially be a converted tackle like Oli Udoh, Aviante Collins, or Riley Reiff. But Jones is the best interior pass blocker on the Vikings' roster, and that ability should – at the very least – help him make the roster as the backup center in 2020.

Previous Interior OL player previews:

You can find every single player preview to date – plus other offseason content – in this handy spreadsheet.

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