He doesn't lead the Bills in yards per catch just yet, but on two big plays in Sunday's landmark win over the New England Patriots Donald Jones showed Buffalo's future opponents he's a deep threat that will need to be accounted for in the Bills high-powered passing attack.
Jones entered Sunday's showdown with Buffalo's AFC East nemesis with all of six catches for 27 yards. He was coming off a largely unrecognized performance in Week 2, with a pair of receptions on what proved to be Buffalo's game-winning touchdown drive against Oakland including a 4th-and-3 conversion at the Raiders 24-yard line to keep that drive alive.
Fast forward to Week 3's matchup with the Patriots and Buffalo's field position was less than stellar all day with Stephen Gostkowski launching kickoffs deep into the Bills end zone. In the fourth quarter down 24-17, Ryan Fitzpatrick and the offense had a 1st-and-10 situation at their own 20. Fitzpatrick recognized a blitz call by New England and pulled Fred Jackson back into the backfield for protection giving him enough time to let Donald Jones win a one-on-one matchup outside.
Jones put a double move on veteran cornerback Leigh Bodden and 48 yards later the second-year wideout had Buffalo in New England territory at the Patriots' 32-yard line.
"We set it up pretty nice and Donald went and made a play," said Fitzpatrick.
"From film work, we saw that those guys like to jump a lot of routes so we got coverage man to man," said Jones. "Fitz just gave me the signal, we worked on it in practice, we got what we wanted out there, I was patient running the route, a guy jumped it and we made a big play."
One play later David Nelson drew a pass interference call in the end zone giving Buffalo a first-and-goal at the one-yard line, which Fred Jackson promptly converted to tie the game at 24.
Tied at 31 after a methodical 15-play scoring drive by New England, Jones again got Buffalo out from the shadow of their own goalposts. Again on 1st-and-10 from their own 20 head coach Chan Gailey dialed up a long pass play, this time down the right sideline to Jones.
This time against second-year corner Devin McCourty, Jones got half a step and picked up 29 yards to move Buffalo out to midfield.
"The second one was essentially man-to-man our guy's better than your guy (situation), and I thought it was a good matchup for us," said Fitzpatrick. "Donald made a great play in getting open and then getting to the ball."
Fred Jackson took a screen play 12 yards on the next play and followed it up with his 38-yard catch and run to the one-yard line before Rian Lindell's game-winning field goal went through the uprights.
In two consecutive weeks, Jones turned in key plays to help lift Buffalo to come from behind victories.
"It's definitely very satisfying to make plays down the field in a big game like this, just to come up big for the team," said Jones, who finished with a team-leading 101 receiving yards, the first 100-yard receiving day of his career. "I plan to do the same thing for the rest of the season."
In the wake of the Lee Evans trade Jones was thrust into the former first-round pick's outside receiver role. He was dismissed by most as a viable replacement by those outside the wall of One Bills Drive, but Bills GM Buddy Nix and Buffalo's head coach knew better.
"Nobody outside the locker room thought anybody could get deep but Coach Gailey, he knows his personnel," said Jones. "First and foremost, thanks go out to him. Our offensive line, they gave Fitz a lot of time to get the ball down the field. They're giving us a lot of time to get down the field so I'll be giving everything to the offensive line."
Which is fine by the Bills as long as Jones continues to stretch the field knowing it adds another layer to Buffalo's suddenly explosive offensive machine.
"He is a great deep threat for us," said Gailey. "He's got great body control, strong hands. He can go down the field and get the ball and compete for the ball when it's in the air. He made a couple contested catches that were big for us. I could see it all along, maybe other people couldn't, but I could see it all along. I was proud he got to show it out there (Sunday)."