This is the fifth in a series on 10 key questions facing the Bills entering training camp. Read the rest of the questions here.
Take the bizarre video out of the equation for a moment.
If Zay Jones' offseason consisted only of the shoulder and knee surgeries he underwent, it would be difficult for the Bills and their fans to feel good about the status of the 2017 second-round draft pick with training camp fast approaching.
The online video that surfaced in March of the receiver — naked and in an agitated state in a Los Angeles apartment complex hallway during an apparent attempt to jump through a 30th-floor window — seemingly pushed difficult to nearly impossible.
After a disappointing rookie season, Jones had to do something, anything, to offer encouragement that his second year in the NFL would offer the Bills the help they still desperately need at his position.
Instead, they have only questions. Is there an issue with Jones' ability to stay healthy, given that he required a shoulder operation shortly after the season ended and knee surgery during offseason workouts? And what of that strange incident, showing him in a fight with his brother, Cayleb, that led to Zay's arrest on a charge of suspicion of felony vandalism that was later dropped?
The answers have been vague, at best.
The Bills did not make Jones available to the media during offseason workouts. So far, his only public comments on the matter have come via social media. There was a March 30 post on his Twitter account in which he said he was "thankful to be alive" and thanked fans for their support.
Then, in a comment under an Instagram post by Cayleb, Zay wrote, "Without you, I wouldn't be here. You literally saved my life Cayleb. Nobody will understand what happened, but as long as I have you I could care less. You've always had my back. Since day 1. True definition of my brothers keeper, til the end."
General Manager Brandon Beane and Sean McDermott said they addressed the incident with Jones, but they offered no details. McDermott called it "an unfortunate situation and somewhat disappointing. But it's a situation to me that we can all take something from and learn from it."
At the end of the Bills' mandatory minicamp last month, McDermott, responding to a question about Jones' recovery from knee surgery, said, "He’s going through that rehab process and attacking it aggressively." Asked if he expected Jones to be ready for the start of camp, the coach said, "Yes, I have no reason not to believe that at this time."
Jones, who started 10 of the 15 games he played as a rookie, has plenty to prove after catching only 27 passes for 316 yards and two touchdowns last year. First, there's the matter of demonstrating he can be better than the player whose rookie season was defined more by the passes he dropped than the ones he caught. Then, there is the need to improve his ability to gain separation from defenders.
After trading Sammy Watkins to the Los Angeles Rams last August, the Bills were expecting much more of an immediate impact from Jones and Jordan Matthews, who washed out after being acquired in an August trade with the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Bills looked to enhance themselves at receiver by trading for Kelvin Benjamin during the season. Benjamin is the leading candidate for the No. 1 spot at the position mainly by default. The Bills had hoped that they could count on Jones to emerge as their top receiver and have the big-bodied Benjamin occupy the No. 2 spot, making his strongest contributions near the goal line and as an intermediate-range target.
That could still play out. For now, though, the Bills have to be hoping Jones can do enough to continue to merit a spot on the roster. Otherwise, they'll need to find an alternative from a less-than-inspiring group that includes veterans Rod Streater, Andre Holmes and Malachi Dupre, and rookies Ray-Ray McCloud, Austin Proehl and Robert Foster.