If you ask Derrick Jones how he became known as "Bones" in the Jets locker room, he'd tell you it's because he's skinny. Coincidentally, the second-year cornerback has something in common with UFC two-time light heavyweight champion Jon "Bones" Jones — they both train using their hands.
During the offseason, Jones' conditioning included boxing once a week to better his hand placement against opposing receivers and improve his footwork.
"I did it a little bit in college, but I played both sides of the ball in college, so I never stuck to it," he said. "Once I was a DB I did it more."
The former wideout, who trained back at school in Oxford, MS, would begin his weekly Wednesday workout with a circuit of jump rope and core exercises before putting the gloves on. Defensive backs coach Dennard Wilson believes Jones has always had the skills to be successful on the field.
"Right now it's all about technique and fundamentals," Wilson said. "He's taking coaching and trying to put it together. When you have athletic ability and get technically sound, you begin to make plays."
Top Images from Wednesday's Practice at 1 Jets Drive
And that's exactly what Jones has done in practice — make plays. He flashed in the first week of camp with a number of interceptions in 7-on-7 and team periods. He also picked off a couple that didn't count as he couldn't keep two feet in bounds. Both head coach Todd Bowles and Wilson believe Jones is mentally sharper than in his rookie year, which has been the biggest difference for him.
"Once you know where your help is on the field and where you're supposed to go, it eliminates all the thinking before the play," Jones said. "You can just line up and focus on your technique.
"The biggest thing is probably knowing the down and distance every play and what to expect. Going against our offense, once you figure out who you're going against and the things they do, it makes it easier."
In the Green & White's first two preseason games, Jones lined up in 47% of the defensive snaps. With two more games remaining, the 23-year-old thinks he's played decently, but still has room to grow.
"I think I got better at off coverage, but at the line of scrimmage, I still have to be better with my hands and my feet, moving my hands and feet together," he said. "I can get better there. As far as assignments and knowing what I'm supposed to do, I feel like I got a lot better at that."