MINNEAPOLIS –Cayleb Jones understands the importance of seizing opportunity, and he took advantage of nine of them Thursday night.
Jones was targeted 10 times during the Vikings fourth preseason game and led the team with 127 yards on nine catches, including Minnesota's lone touchdown of the evening.
Midway through the second quarter, Jones made his first catch count. On first-and-10 from the Dolphins 33-yard line, quarterback Taylor Heinicke found the receiver deep to the right. Jones leapt up and caught the 21-yard pass between two defenders to move the chains for Minnesota.
Two plays later, Heinicke connected with Jones again, this time on third-and-6 from the 10. Jones caught the ball before pivoting and squeezing through a trio of Dolphins into the end zone.
"It was a play that was kind of deep in our playbook; not deep, but we haven't run it in a while," Jones said. "I guess they kind of messed up on coverage, and I felt like I was waiting there all day. [Taylor] found me, and I just tried to make a play."
Jones made a number of plays from that point on, tallying five catches of 10 or more yards. His longest of the night was a 29-yard reception on third-and-11. It came from quarterback Mitch Leidner, who played the second half after Heinicke left the game under concussion protocol.
"He made a lot of great catches, great plays tonight," Leidner said after the game. "There were a few times there tonight where he went up and got the ball. A big receiver and able to jump like that, too, he's a pretty deadly weapon out there."
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said after the game that he thought Jones did a good job.
"I thought he made some great catches. I thought he ran some good routes," Zimmer said. "The catch he made in the red zone for the touchdown, I thought it was a good run afterwards. He's a big, tall guy that has good hands and is a really good athlete. It was good to see."
The receiver hoped to leave an impression two days before rosters across the league are reduced from 90 to 53.
Having spent time with two teams in as many offseasons, Jones said he understands the importance of capitalizing on any chances he gets.
"It's so important every time you step on the field to put something good on tape," Jones said. "You never want to put anything bad on tape – and there's plays I want back from tonight. I'm going to learn from it. Watch the film, just keep going."
Jones said he's grown significantly as both a player and a person since first joining the Eagles as an undrafted free agent in 2016.
"I've matured tremendously. I understand the importance of coming in and working, and even when you don't get the praise or whatever you're looking for, to keep working because God is good," Jones said. "Just to be diligent, and hard work pays off."
Whatever happens on Saturday, Jones is grateful.
"[I definitely feel] extremely fortunate for the opportunity. I know what it's like to be at home during the football season," Jones said. "So I'm just thankful for Coach Zimmer, [Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman], the whole offensive staff, for giving me the shot to go out there and play.
"Do or die," he added.