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Matt Jones ready for new role in Redskins' attack

RICHMOND, Va. -- A smirk appeared on Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden's face when he was told that the 2015 NFC East champions would be conducting their 10th training camp practice in the rain.

Inclement weather is something teams grow accustomed to as the regular-season journey proceeds to the autumn and winter months. The Virginia state capital offered the Redskins a head start on Monday.

Matt Jones is getting used to more than just the poor conditions -- he's also adjusting to life as Washington's starting running back. The 2015 third-round pick bent his fingernail back in Washington's first practice in the pouring rain, which forced him to take his gloves off and miss a few plays.

Those types of nicks and bruises will become the norm for Jones as he takes the reins in the Redskins' ground attack. The Florida product acknowledged that this bigger role has come with a distinctive change.

"Yeah, very different. It's a different approach you got to take," Jones admitted to Around The NFL on Monday, when asked about being the team's starter. "The ownership you got to take, the liability you got to take. You got to do everything. You got to be a leader."

In his inaugural NFL season, Jones rushed for just 490 yards on 144 carries while splitting time with veteran Alfred Morris. With Morris having signed in Dallas, Jones will assume a more prominent place in the offense, which comes with both added leadership duties and greater accountability. These are burdens that could be considered a bit much for a second-year pro, but Jones gladly accepts the challenge and is not afraid to lean on others for guidance.

"I think I'm becoming a great leader," Jones said. "Just learning from [quarterback] Kirk [Cousins], learning from [defensive end] Chris Baker and learning from all these leaders out here on the team and all these old veterans on the team, how they do stuff; there's always room for learning. And I feel like I'll become a great leader in the future."

Yes, Jones' pro output thus far represents a small sample size, but he showed glimpses of promise for a rookie. He broke out in just his second NFL contest, doing a great impression of Rams great Eric Dickerson -- on whom he models his game -- by running all over the Rams' defense for 123 yards and two touchdowns.

It would prove to be his lone 100-yard rushing performance on the season. Jones proceeded to hit the proverbial rookie wall, topping 60 rushing yards just once and scoring only one more rushing touchdown the rest of the way. He played in just 13 games, missing time due to a toe and a hip injury, with the latter malady forcing him to skip the Redskins' wild-card loss to the Green Bay Packers.

As Washington's new feature back, Jones is preparing to be more than just a one-game wonder.

"Every day I come out here, I'm getting better, and the whole offense is getting better," he said. "As a whole, we got so much chemistry right now. We feel better about going into the season."

Notably, the Redskins are entering as the reigning NFC East champs for the first time since 2013. Outside of Washington's locker room, most deemed the 2015 campaign a success. But Jones isn't resting on his laurels after the surprise ascension to the top of the division.

"Really, my No. 1 goal is that I want to win. I want to be a winner. Going off last year, going 9-7 and winning the [division] -- it was big, but it wasn't big enough," Jones admitted. "It felt good to be a winner of something and going to the playoffs, but I want more. I want to win more and I want this organization to win more."

Jones' coach had positive things to say about him on Tuesday.

"He's sticking his foot in the ground and making decisive cuts," Gruden said. "Whether it's cutting through the C-gap, B-gap, outside A-gap [and] really bouncing outside. We've seen him make decisive cuts and his cuts have been pretty darn good."

Jones has a prime opportunity to contribute to Washington's win total if he revitalizes the team's running attack. The Redskins ranked 20th in the league in rushing last year, with 1,566 total yards -- a total that Jones' all-time favorite running back, Dickerson, exceeded four times during his Hall of Fame career.

In his second year in Gruden's system and with more trust from the team's coaching staff, Jones is eager to take his starting responsibilities head on.

"I don't take that for granted, either," Jones said about being Washington's No. 1 running back. "Just making the best of my opportunities out there. Whenever my number's called, just do something with it."

If Jones does something with his opportunity this year, it should result in more victories, and maybe he and his coach will have more to smile about in 2016.

Follow Tyler Dragon on Twitter @TheTylerDragon.

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