"I wanted to get an edge and separate myself mentally from the other guys and embrace this time that I have."
Brandon Jones made a unique request to all 32 NFL teams in the lead up to this year's draft. Recovering from a shoulder injury, Jones inquired about each club's defensive 2019 film. He watched four games of every team – 128 total – and put together a binder bigger than the South Florida phone book.
"I'm always looking for growth, whether it's physically or mentally," Jones said. "I took it upon myself to ask my agent to get me as much film as he can, and I put together a binder, and just got to know the defense. It really helped me a lot to dive down deep and really dissect the defense. I'm very familiar and understood a lot that was going on. I realized, as I got older in college, how important film-watching was, and I think the mental side of the game is something that's going to carry you a lot further than the physical side."
That preparation and thirst for any advantage he can gain makes for a flexible, versatile player that can contribute in multiple positions and packages, and on special teams.
"Special teams is just as important," Jones said. "Field position is huge and can win or lose games at the end of the day. You want your best players on the field at all times. [Even if] it's a guy that's been starting for a long time, it doesn't really matter. You want guys that are going to do whatever you need them to do and I've had experience through all special teams."
With blocked punts and return touchdowns on his resume, Jones played all over Texas' special teams units, but he also played everywhere on the defense. Per Pro Football Focus, Jones played 285 snaps last year at free safety and 154 in the box. His most frequent position was in the slot with 371 snaps. In total, over a three-year career, Jones played 2,333 snaps for the Longhorns with 1,285 of those plays coming in pass coverage.
Jones made 198 tackles in his three seasons as a starter at Texas. Last year, he intercepted two passes and broke up seven others. He made 4.5 tackles for a loss last year with one sack and a forced fumble.
NFL.com's Lance Zierlein loves the effort Jones plays with, calling him a thumper at heart, and with the toughness to play through pain. The speed and range to play over the top, ball tracking, motor to pursue ball-carriers from across the field, and ability to step in as a kick and punt returner round out the report on the new Dolphins safety.
Above the versatility, deep-range and overall play-making, the former Longhorn earned the praise of his college coach through his character, Tom Herman issued a thank you to Jones ahead of the team's 2019 bowl game, telling his star safety simply, "I love you, man," Herman said.
"I want to be able to inspire people off the field and on the field," Jones said in an interview with 247 Sports last November. "I want to be able to show guys that anytime you want to do something, if you put your mind to it you can do it because I've had ups and downs in my career. I've had my ups and downs. I hope people take that I'm a fighter and, obviously, if you actually believe that you can do something then you can actually do it if you put the work in."
Jones arrives in Miami with a leg up on his offseason studies. That head start should benefit the rookie as he enters the Dolphins' multiple, complex defensive system.