Fourth-year wide receiver Marvin Jones is a fan favorite to many who ardently follow the Cincinnati Bengals. The reasons behind it are plentiful, ranging from his rise to success as a fifth-round pick, his knack for big plays, and his entertaining social media posts.
Jones' injuries forced him to miss all of the 2014 season and were felt by the entire team. While the offense found ways to win games via opportune, albeit infrequent big plays and a late-season surge in the running game, Jones' absence was felt in a big way.
Now, it appears that he's healthy and ready to bring back the impact that was seen in 2013 with his 712 receiving yards and 10 touchdown catches back to Cincinnati again. While many other No. 2 receivers have had bigger statistical seasons than Jones' 2013 campaign, 10 touchdowns are pretty impressive, especially when you realize it was his Jones' first season as a starter.
So, what should we expect with Jones returning to lineup and getting on-field work for the first time in Hue Jackson's system?
A Multi-Faceted Attack:
Jones' injury could be argued as leaving the biggest hole in the Bengals' 2014 offense because of its length, but others piling on top of his really weakened an offense that became potent on the back of a swarming defense. We've already talked about how the cornerback group should benefit from added defensivee pieces, but the offense, as a whole, should benefit simply by having personnel return.
Sure, A.J. Green missed what amounted to seven games (including the Wild Card game against Indianapolis), Tyler Eifert essentially also missed the season and Giovani Bernard missed a handful of games, which depleted a pretty stacked offense. But not having an additional threat along with the other ailing talented players made the offense somewhat predictable. Mohamed Sanu filled in admirably in both Jones' and Green's respective absences, but a complementary player thrown into a primary role just doesn't work, even if his optimism is sky-high in 2015.
Eifert is a personal favorite of Hue Jackson's, but having Jones back really changes things up. Formation possibilities are endless and the respect of a defense increases, especially with the improved running game that emerged late last year. With all hands on deck, the massive attention that is paid to Green, Bernard, Jeremy Hill or Sanu, now gets a bit more evenly distributed and keeps the defense on its heels. That's saying something in the physical AFC North.
Hue Jackson The Biggest Beneficiary:
At the Cincinnati Enquirer, Dehner Jr. and Owczarski rightly assume Andy Dalton and Jones himself have the most to gain from the receiver's return. To argue against that would be ridiculous, but one beneficiary that wasn't overly-mentioned was Hue Jackson. The Bengals offensive coordinator had a staggering amount of huge personnel losses in his first season in that role with the Bengals, so any inconsistencies should be forgiven in that manner.
There are many keys that make Jackson's offense work: Green is the most obvious, followed by the multi-headed rushing attack of Jeremy Hill and Gio Bernard, and Eifert, whose first crack at a major role was tragically cut short last year, after only one quarter of football. However, a deep threat to complement the strengths of Green Sanu, Eifert and the others in the passing game should make Jackson grin when adding pages to the playbook.
Are you looking for a fantasy football projection? Too bad, I don't really have one. Jones could easily replicate his 2013 numbers, but this isn't Jay Gruden's bombs-away offense. Having Green, Jones, Sanu and Eifert on the field with Hill and Bernard should provide an obvious positive reaction.
Imagine a scenario where you are only given two or three of five major tools to do your job effectively. It's likely safe to say you wouldn't be able to be as efficient as possible in your position without the proper resources. That was Jackson in 2014. Jones is valuable, no doubt, but he is part of a puzzle containing many pieces. To judge both Dalton and Jackson in the second year of the system, having all of those pieces readily available will be a true barometer on the success of both going forward.
Jones will need to show he can play a full season of football and if he does, the entire Bengals football team will benefit. Dehner Jr. and Owczarski noted the drop in red zone efficiency last season (73 to 57 percent), and with Jones and others back, that should bounce back to 2013-like numbers. The big question regarding Jones being back lies within his ability to make plays or his ability to open up others. If either occur, it brings an element that was not present last season in the Bengals' offense. If both happen to surface, the team might be looking at its first postseason win since 1991.