He made a name for himself this preseason, though very few of his teammates — still today — probably do not know his actual name.
It’s JaNardreon. JaNardreon Quonshun Jones.
“People kind of butcher my first name,” the Chargers wide receiver said. “So I go by JJ.”
He has to be one of the more unlikely players to make a 53-man roster to open this season, Jones having played at West Georgia and, before that, Itawamba Community College in Mississippi.
Listed at 5-foot-10, 173 pounds, he went undrafted, the Chargers drawn to him because of his speed. Jones said he ran a 4.2-second 40-yard dash on his pro day.
He flashed that speed most notably on a 72-yard punt return for a touchdown against Seattle in the second preseason game. That was the play when Jones “came on my radar,” coach Anthony Lynn said Monday.
“We tried to upgrade the speed on this football team,” Lynn explained. “He brought that speed element and points. We need to score points from everybody, not just that offense. We need points from everybody.”
Lynn said he wasn’t sure if Jones would be employed as a returner Sunday in the opener against Kansas City. He did acknowledge Jones has the ability to bring back both punts and kickoffs.
Producing a moment like he did last month against the Seahawks in the regular season certainly would further establish Jones, even though JaNardreon isn’t likely to catch on anytime soon.
“It’s just something my mom came up with that she thought was fascinating, I guess,” Jones said. “But, seriously, just call me JJ.”
Antonio Gates officially signed his one-year contract Monday and is expected to rejoin the Chargers on the practice field for their next session on Wednesday.
Lynn said he wouldn’t know Gates’ status for the opener against Kansas City until watching the veteran tight end work out.
“I don’t even know if he’s going to play,” Lynn said. “I gotta see what type of shape he’s in and go from there.… I don’t want to put him in a position where he hurts himself.”
Entering his 16th season with the Chargers, Gates missed all of the preseason before agreeing to terms Sunday.
Cornerbacks Casey Hayward and Trevor Williams, defensive end Joey Bosa, wide receiver Tyrell Williams and offensive tackle Russell Okung all returned to practice Monday after being out because of injury.
“Good to see them out practicing,” Lynn said. “My only concern is, you know, a boxer needs so many sparring rounds before he goes and fights. These guys have been out. Getting them caught up … that’s my only concern.”
Bosa (foot) and Trevor Williams (ankle) were hurt early in training camp and missed all four preseason games.
Rookie defensive tackle Justin Jones also practiced Monday. He has been slowed by an ankle injury.
Emmanuel Ellerbee went from trying to make Atlanta’s roster to being waived to perhaps making the Falcons’ practice squad to finally making the Chargers’ roster.
That’s what can happen to a young player in the span of 36 hours this time of year.
“This was something that I couldn’t even fathom, to be honest,” said Ellerbee, a linebacker signed by the Chargers on Sunday.
An undrafted rookie out of Rice, Ellerbee returned home to Houston after Atlanta waived him Saturday.
He was having brunch Sunday with his parents when his agent called with the news that he was about to be a Charger.
“We started jumping around and screaming,” Ellerbee said. “We had an entire restaurant of people looking at us. They were just like, ‘Are they OK?’ Me and my dad paid the bill, left a huge tip and just sprinted out. We were so excited.”