Daronte Jones: Vance Joseph protoge.
Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis likes to open up his spring practices to college coaches and like safeties coach Robert Livingston says, "You get whatever you want to get out of it."
And it can work the other way as the Bengals have found out from a week in 2015. That's when they began tracking a promising young college coach and Vance Joseph protégé named Daronte Jones and Friday they got out of it the Dolphins assistant secondary coach as their new cornerbacks coach in a film room re-union with Livingston. That should help make new defensive coordinator Teryl Austin's transition to the Bengals all that much easier since Jones is bringing back some Cincy principals he learned under Joseph in Miami. And when Joseph left for Denver, former Bengals linebackers coach Matt Burke succeeded him.
"Similar schematics. Similar structure for the most part," said Jones, who has a packed resume ranging from coaching one-high in Hawaii to preaching press man in Montreal. "A lot of the concepts and verbiage are similar."
It was Livingston's job in 2015 as the defense's quality control coach to help facilitate the visiting coaches and when Jones, the secondary coach from Wisconsin, came to Paul Brown Stadium hoping to take back the Double A Gap blitz to Madison Livingston said, "We clicked," even though at 32 he's seven years younger than Jones.
"He's a bright guy. He was eager. He asked a lot of questions and we were doing a lot of the same things," Livingston said. "He kind of became a sounding board for me. We kept in touch and would text congratulations after a win or talk about if this was working or that was working. When there was a spot open, he's the first guy I thought of. I'm looking forward to working with him."
Jones has important shoes to fill. Over the last dozen years or so former cornerbacks coach Kevin Coyle had a big hand in developing first-rounders Johnathan Joseph and Leon Hall into elite, and putting William Jackson on a similar path. Jones feels no pressure inheriting four first-round corners with Adam Jones, Dre Kirkpatrick, and Darqueze Dennard joining Jackson.
"No pressure at all. No pressure at all. It's actually a selling point," Jones said. "Talented. Very talented. They're long, rangy, they can run. They have athletic ability, they have ball skills. You've got to be excited about that."
It's believed the Bengals had to fend off a couple of major colleges to obtain Jones' services and the first-rounders weren't the only selling points.
Vance Joseph: he took Bengals fundamentals with him.
"Anytime you get a chance to be with guys like Marvin Lewis,' Jones said. "He has such stature in the city and the league and you look at all the things he's done defensively. And the things that Teryl Austin has accomplished in this league and even before that in the college ranks. I've been following him for a long time. I'm excited to get to learn from them and contribute and bring some different ideas."
As avidly as Jones followed Lewis and Austin, his mentor is Joseph, the Broncos head coach who coached the Bengals secondary from 2014-15. He's the reason Jones was at spring ball and when Joseph became the Dolphins defensive coordinator the next season, he went to Wisconsin for Jones.
Finally. If you like guys that paid their dues, you like Jones. Jones and Joseph met in 2000 when Jones coached with Joseph's brother Mickey at Nicholls State in Louisiana and Joseph was at Colorado. Joseph mentored him through Nicholls and then to the five Division II years he was the assistant head coach and defensive coordinator at Bowie State (2005-09) when his unit finished in the top three national rankings three times. Jones kept in touch with Joseph even as the game GPSed him through a G.A. stint at UCLA, and secondary jobs at Hawaii and the CFL's Montreal Alouettes before Madison.
Jones worked for just a year in Montreal in 2011 but no doubt his players are going to see the influence in their drills. He loves to press man-to-man to disrupt the offense's timing and got an eyeful with 12 men on the field.
"It was a great experience. A different perspective of the game," Jones said. "In Montreal we pressed even with that up-tempo motion. It gives you another way to teach and relate press techniques. If you can press that, I know you can press a guy that's stationary."
Jones, a native of Capital Heights, Maryland who went down the road to play at Morgan State, has been all over the place. But it's a small world. Bengals scout Steve Radicevic endorsed the pursuit of Jones. He served as UCLA's director of football operations when Jones arrived as a grad assistant in 2010 and then saw offensive coordinator Norm Chow became the head coach at Hawaii and take Jones as his secondary coach.
When Jones opted to coach DBs at a bigger level and went to the Big Ten and Wisconsin, Chow called to say the coordinator's job had opened and wanted him back. But Jones wouldn't renege on the deal he signed with the Badgers.
"I just didn't think it was right," Jones said. "I gave those guys my word. They were counting on me to coach and I didn't want to go back on my word."
Jones' word goes a long way. Livingston saw Joseph and Burke coach the Dolphins and says, "We speak the same language." Even though Livingston is several years younger than Jones and they figure to be called safeties coach and cornerbacks coach, there has been speculation that Livingston leads the room because he's steeped in the system and the personnel.
But Livingston dismisses the notion.
"It's we and us," Livingston said. "I'm going to coach safeties and he's going to coach corners and we're going to always be communicating and talking."
Meanwhile, Jones is looking forward to stepping on the PBS practice field instead of staying on the sideline like he did three springs ago.
"I'm just trying to continue what they're doing and add a few more tools," Jones said. "The Bengals are who they are. They have the foundation. That's our identity."
You can tell who they are in the spring. They'll be checking out the coaches, too.