Myles Jones: Dissecting Defenses like a Quarterback
By Austin Owens | Jul 9, 2021
Myles Jones has been reading defenses for his entire life, going back to his days as a quarterback.
“Being able to scan the defensive and offensive players on the field is something that I learned from football,” Jones said. “I’d get the ball and pick my head up and see where the linebackers are and see where the cornerbacks are, if they’re playing zone or man. That’s the same as playing man-up.
“I can see if they’re playing a five-man rotation or a four-man rotation and I can see where the ball is supposed to go.”
Since his days as a Duke Blue Devil, Jones has stood out. At 6-foot-5, 240 pounds back in his collegiate days, his ability to score, run over or past defenders, and dish the rock have left fans picking their jaws up off the floor.
He had a pro-ready frame and the two-time National Champion was destined for great things once his NCAA days were finished.
After strong showings in the MLL with the Atlanta Blaze and Chesapeake Bayhawks, respectively, Jones made an immediate impact upon his arrival in the PLL, as he posted six goals, one 2-pointer, and 10 assists for 18 points.
But ahead of the 2020 season, Jones found himself in one of the biggest trades in the league’s history at the time. He was sent to the Redwoods in exchange for Sergio Salcido and a second-round pick in the 2020 College Draft. It was just the second time he’s been traded in his career and the first since his rookie season.
“I was focused on playing well, doing the little things to set my team, setting up my teammates, and being that kind of glue for the offence,” Jones said. “Every season that we get to play, there was a bit of a motive to show people that (decision) was a mistake.”
Redwoods head coach Nat St. Laurent was looking to add a facilitator and felt that there weren’t any guys that could step in immediately and fill that role with where the Woods were picking in the 2020 College Draft. So he made the move in order to bolster the offense with one of the best in the game.
“I think people forget what Myles was able to do at Duke,” St. Laurent said. “The thing that’s unfair to Myles at times is that he’s the biggest, strongest athlete, it puts a tremendous amount of pressure on him to perform.
“It’s almost like everyone expects him to have five goals a game and run through someone. When you spend time around Myles Jones, he’s not a me guy. He wants to make his teammates better and he wants to help.”
Jones described joining the Redwoods as a perfect situation that fit the style he played, and he hit the ground running with his new squad in 2020, posting 13 points in the Championship Series.
He has continued to build that rapport with his running mates on the Woods heading into this season and it’s paid dividends, as he sits second in the league with 11 assists. At this current pace, he’ll set a new career high in helpers – his previous-best was 15 with the Bayhawks in 2018.
Jones says that this season, he’s been watching more film than ever before, and that – mixed with his experience and in-game reps – are the main attributes to his offensive success this season.
“I think people have sold me short on playmaking for a long time. I’ve heard the term underrated passer and underrated vision, but if you look at my stats from college, I had over 100 goals and 100 assists as a midfielder. So you can’t really call it underrated passing,” Jones said. “People are going to say what they want about my ability to make plays, but I think they respect how dangerous I am. I’ve been drawing slides and double teams from 15 or 16 yards since I stepped on the field professionally.
“If I didn’t have the ability to make plays, I’m not sure that would be the case.”
The Redwoods have come out with a new look this season that gives them flexibility and makes opposing defenses pick their poison when it comes to who to leave open.
That has left opponents with the unenviable task of leaving a short-stick on two of the three. The midfield also has two premier passers in Heningburg and Jones operating from up top while Pannell does his thing from behind the cage.
With the weapons that the team possesses, everyone on the field has the ability to excel as a feeder or scorer.
That fits into Jones’ wheelhouse perfectly. He’s been a triple threat on the offensive end, finding open teammates with skip passes, beating recovering defenders with dodges, or taking it on his own to bury a goal for Woods. But it’s the selflessness that has shown in Jones’ game that has made the biggest impression on his teammates.
“He doesn’t need to shoot, he's happy to assist and I think that’s important for someone who is a passer. In my mind as a feeder myself, an assist is as good as a goal and Myles has been happy to create for others,” Pannell said of Jones. “I think it says a lot about his maturity as a player and understanding his role within the offense.
“It doesn’t have to be him scoring a goal for us or having an assist. It could be him drawing a double and getting us started as an offense. It just speaks to his maturity and his lack of ego. I think his play this year is really showing that.”
Jones said that heading into camp, Kyle Harrison referred to him as a veteran. With five-and-a-half seasons under his belt now, he’s one of the leaders of this offensive unit.
St. Laurent said that Jones knows when to pick his spots when to speak up, but added that his personality and his smile has been infectious to the guys in the room.
Put simply, Jones is having fun doing what he loves most, and it shows when he’s out on the field, as he’s scoring goals, setting up teammates, and helping the Woods push to bring home their first PLL Championship.
“You play sports to have fun when you’re a kid and I think the moment you lose that bond in the sport is when you stop playing,” Jones said. “I’m happy having fun and doing something I love and I’ve always been super competitive since I was a young kid, and maybe that shows through and is maybe magnified at times. But the sport of lacrosse is a lot more different for me because I’m not like a lot of guys.
“If I was playing football, I’d probably fit in and not be such an outstanding personality. But in lacrosse, I let who I am shine at all times. Obviously, it garners a lot of attention that I’m not necessarily looking for, but I’m definitely someone who remains authentic to who I am. No matter where I am, I just let that shine when I’m on the field.”
Week 5 will offer another chance for Jones and the Redwoods to shine as they take on the two-time defending champion Whipsnakes in Minneapolis on Saturday.
For Jones, he’s had the chance to face the Whips twice already as a member of the Woods, so he knows exactly what this game means to everyone in that locker room.
The matchup is the biggest rivalry in the PLL, stemming back to the two teams fighting for the PLL Championship in the league’s inaugural season.
The Woods haven’t gotten a win on the Whips since their inaugural showdown in 2019, and with the 2021 season getting closer to the postseason with every passing week, this weekend offers a great chance for Jones and the Woods to make a statement heading into the final stretch of the regular season.