It is often one or two plays that determine the outcome of a game. Those one or two plays are often set in motion by a single player having the best or worst day of his life. I am going to fill the void between OTAs and training camp by covering a few of the Lions’ players, and the key thing that player needs to do to set the Lions’ season on the course to success: how that player can be one of the Lions’ keys to victory in 2016.
Today I am looking at wide receiver Marvin Jones, who was signed this off-season as a free agent from the Cincinnati Bengals on the first day of free agency. Regarded as a skinny speedster lacking in the upper body strength to do anything but wilt against physical corner play, Jones has excelled in one of the most physical divisions in football for four seasons.
What Does Marvin Jones Have to Do in 2016?
The Lions’ wide receiver position group is full of question marks in 2016. The loss of Calvin Johnson has left a sizable gap; and make no mistake that even a depleted and weary Johnson is going to need to be made up for by another player, or a group of players. There is absolutely no way that the Lions are going to be able to find one person to change the game in the way that Johnson did, players like that simply do not get to free agency and are not available in most drafts. The Lions have taken the approach of bringing in multiple veteran receivers with histories of producing as the third our fourth receiver in Andre Caldwell, Andre Roberts, and Jeremy Kerley. There is only really one free agent acquisition that the Lions are expecting more from than he has previously produced in the NFL.
Marvin Jones has been a steady producer in Cincinnati as a part of a very deep wide receiver corps, which bodes well for his future. A.J. Green may not be Megatron, but he is about as close as it comes anywhere in the league. Jones has been the steady number two receiver taking advantage of the coverages that offenses with dominant receivers see. Along with Mohamed Sanu, tight end Tyler Eiffert, and running back Giovanni Bernard coming out of the backfield, Jones has been a part of one of the better offenses in the league, with two head coaching positions going to the offensive coordinators running them in the last two years. What that means is that men who were making decisions that earned them promotions decoded that Marvin Jones was a solid offensive option. Jones is fast and agile, with incredible body control along the sideline and in traffic. I raved about him in this article before free agency opened, and Justin Rogers did the same in this article upon further review of Jones’ tape after he became a Lion. What the two articles amount to, if you do not want to click, is that Marvin Jones is a very good player, with all the tools, and the right attitude on the field to be successful.
There are Expectations That Come with Marvin Jones’ Contract
Where the rubber hits the road; Marvin Jones has never actually done it. The only time the omnipresent figure that is Green within that offense has gone down with injury, Jones was also injured, forcing third wheel Sanu to step up in to the number one receiver role for the weeks that Green was out or limited. Jones has a career high of 816 yards, and 65 catches, both of which fall well short of what might be expected with his shiny new multi year contract at an $8 million price tag. He has the 24th highest cap hit for a wide receiver in the NFL. Accordingly, a reasonable expectation would be that he should be somewhere in the 1000 yards and 75 receptions range in a sixteen game season, which would place him in the range of 20-30th in both statistics among wide receivers in most seasons. That is roughly an increase of 25% in yards from 2015, the best season Jones has ever had, and a 15% increase in receptions. There is little reason to think that these things are impossible, the Detroit Lions did throw the ball 25% more often than the Bengals in 2015 after all with 632 and 505 pass attempts respectively, meaning that if Jones can merely maintain his percentage of production from Cincinnati to Detroit, these statistical markers are within reach. Given the slight decrease in quality of the weapons around him, if anything I would think he has the opportunity to increase his share, but the fact that he is going to be asked to put up bigger numbers than he ever has makes Marvin Jones’ production a major factor in how the Lions 2016 season will play out.