Often times people do not know just how great players are until they get more reps and more snaps.
In many cases this involves signing a deal with another team when free agency strikes in the offseason. The player’s statistical output was limited in the past because of the role they played, but when it came time for them to get more reps, their stats blew up.
Such has been the case thus far for Detroit Lions wide receiver Marvin Jones. A newcomer in the Motor City, Jones was drafted with the 166th pick in the 5th round of the 2012 NFL Draft by the Bengals. spending his first 4 seasons (3 technically, as he was out for all of 2014 due to an ankle injury) in Cincinnati. In 3 seasons there, Jones caught 134 passes for 1,729 yards, 15 touchdowns, and 12.9 yards per reception.
Clearly, no one questioned the statistical output of Jones in Cincinnati because he was the #2 receiver to one of the freakiest receivers in NFL history in AJ Green. A demon before the catch point, at the catch point, and after the catch point, Green’s margin for error has rarely been equalled. In 2015, Jones was the #3 target for the Bengals thanks to the return of freak tight end Tyler Eifert, who enjoyed a breakout year on a loaded offense.
After the 2015 season, Jones signed with the Lions for a 5-year $40M contract. Jones’ role was to help replace that of recently retired legend Calvin “Megatron” Johnson. Megatron, like AJ Green was a monster at the catch point and was the focal point of his passing game.
Replacing a receiver like that is no easy task, but Jones has nevertheless been a great commodity for the Lions. Through 7 weeks, Jones ranks 5th in receiving yards (623) tied for 7th in TD catches (4) and is 7th in yards per reception (18.9) as he’s contributed to the Lions’ 4-3 start to the 2016 season.
If you were familiar with Marvin Jones back in Cincinnati, you would have seen this coming for 2 primary reasons.
1. MASSIVE MARGIN FOR ERROR AT THE CATCH POINT
The average weight for a wide receiver is 217 lb. Despite weighing 198 lb, Jones, like Green, is also a catch point stud, possessing the ability to size up and create a massive margin for error. Andy Dalton’s job was easy enough with Green; with a healthy Jones, there was no need for precision point passing. Especially in the case of 2015, Dalton’s job was to simply loft passes in the general area of his receivers and let them do the rest.
In these 2 plays at Baltimore in 2015, Jones creates excellent advantages for his quarterback. The first GIF is a jump ball for the WR, who sizes up and makes a great catch for a huge play. As evident in the 2nd GIF, Jones is intelligent when going up for difficult catches. He understands when to process his feet and when to stay patient, and in the 2nd GIF, he leaps at the right time and makes a spectacular catch.
2. YARDS AFTER THE CATCH
But Jones is not a one trick pony downfield. As much of a vertical threat as he is, he is as big a horizontal threat getting yards after the catch, as shown in the two above plays. He has considerable speed, but it’s his athleticism after the catch point that really makes him a dangerous YAC threat.
In the first GIF (from 2013), Dalton throws to Jones on an out route. What stands out immediately is Jones’ athleticism after the catch. He’s elusive and breaks a couple of tackles to secure a huge gain. On this play in particular he understands the importance of stutter stepping, faking out tacklers while making cuts entering into enemy territory.
In the 2nd GIF, a wide open Jones makes several outside cuts fooling Seahawks defenders for another big gain. What’s important to note is how quickly Jones stops his feet after catching the ball; with defenders in his area immediately, it’s important to react as quickly as possible. Jones uses intelligence and athleticism to get even more yards on the play, securing yet another massive play.
During his time in Detroit, Jones has met and exceeded expectations from fans, media, and the team. Matthew Stafford is having a career year thus far, and many consider him a legitimate MVP candidate. What’s important to note, however, is how much of it has to do with Detroit having accuracy erasing receivers, with Jones of course being the biggest one.
Like Dalton, Stafford doesn’t need pin point accuracy to throw to Jones, just needing to loft it up in his area and let the receiver do the rest. As you might have guessed, this has come with several inaccurate passes that were caught anyway, as shown in the above 3 GIFs. The first 2 GIFs show Stafford’s accuracy preventing longer completions. Stafford has never been one of the league’s top downfield passers at this point of his career, and the first play is an underthrown ball that prevents the touchdown, but shows Jones bailing out his quarterback anyway.
The 2nd GIF is of similar fashion, as Stafford underthrows a massive gain into a jumpball. Jones leaps and turns the inaccurate pass into a spectacular catch. On the all-22 angle, you can see that Jones would have had a touchdown had Stafford’s throw been precise, with no one else in the area, but Jones has to settle for a huge gain because of it.
The 3rd GIF is the most impressive by far. Jones again beats his man and Stafford again throws inaccurately, going to the Jones’ side instead of leading him. Remarkably, Jones not only adjusts and makes the catch, but breaks the would be tackle and bursts away for the touchdown, bailing out a poor throw from the quarterback. Jones’ ability to adjust and burst when setting his feet has been a treat to watch…
….And it is also shown in the GIF above, where he breaks a couple of tackles for a big YAC play. The best receivers understand where to cut and when to make that move. Immediately as Jones makes the catch, he adjusts his angle inside and breaks the tackle before bursting and breaking another one, finally being brought before the 5-yard line. Offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter calls a short passing game demanding yards after the catch. His play calling is smart, as be understands the skill set each of his players has and puts them where they can thrive at.
It’s safe to say Jones excels at both horizontal and vertical threats, and the amount of trust JBC puts into his players to execute the plays shows.
Enough plays where Stafford looks bad. Let’s look at some plays where Stafford threw more accurately to Jones. In the first GIF, Jones does a great job of adjusting his angle on a perfectly thrown ball from Stafford. In the 2nd, despite pass interference from Josh Norman (injured on the play), Jones is able to make a spectacular diving catch. Jones’ speed allows him to get a quick jump ahead of Norman, where he shows off his impressive catch radius. He is also an exceptional route runner, as shown in the 3rd GIF, Jones fakes a quick inside cut and completes the out route, allowing Stafford to fire a pass to the sideline for a nice gain.
Finally, Jones’ work on the sideline is yet another positive trait of his massive skill set. #11 understands when to set his feet on these sideline catches, using field awareness and athleticism at one. In the first GIF, Jones goes up for a quick jumpball. Again, his ability to set himself up at the catch point shows, using his strength to go up and get the ball against Bashaud Breeland.
In the 2nd GIF, tight end Eric Ebron is schemed on an outside curl, baiting the cornerback into helping double covering him, allowing Jones to be made completely wide open. Jones catches the pass on the sideline while toe tapping to ensure a completion. His footwork on the sideline catch again stands out, as he is aware of the situation he is in as well as where he is on the field, allowing the Lions to move the chains once more.
Marvin Jones has always been a great wide receiver since his days in Cincinnati. His skill set is versatile, allowing for coaches to move him around the field and be a short/intermediate/downfield passing threat. There’s been very little buzz about his presence as a great wide receiver, which is a shame, because he’s a perfect fit in Jim Bob Cooter’s offense, as well as an accuracy erasing machine.
The Lions were wise to pay up and sign Jones. Along with Anquan Boldin, Eric Ebron, Theo Riddick, and Golden Tate, Jones is part of a core that ensures explosive playmaking, yards after the catch, and great execution of the play calls. Jones’ play, in addition to the aforementioned receivers, makes up for Megatron’s retirement, because the promotions and upgrades ensure a more talented and efficient starting unit.
Jones’ success through 7 weeks is sustainable, as you no doubt may have figured out. His talent and efficiency signal this, and at full health, is a monster catch passer.
That all adds up to Marvin Jones being the best receiver no one is talking about.
(Featured image via nflspinzone.com)