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Bold 2015 Bengals Predictions: Marvin Jones will outperform A.J. Green

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The first in a series of Bold Predictions for the Bengals upcoming season, we look at the case for why Marvin Jones could outperform AJ Green.

Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Sure, it sounds absurd on the surface – and maybe it is. But if it’s not a bit outlandish, then it’s not really a "bold" prediction.

Ever since entering the league in 2011, A.J. Green has been sliding past opposing cornerbacks and making amazing catches. He has become one of the elite wide receivers in the NFL.

Head-to-head, Green has easily outperformed Marvin Jones. In fact, the fewest receiving yards Green has ever recorded in a season (1,041) are more than the total receiving yardage Marvin Jones has compiled during his entire career (913).

So what case could we possibly present in defense of the bold prediction that Jones will outperform Green in the 2015 NFL season?

TOUCHDOWNS

For whatever reason, the Bengals don’t lock onto Green in red zone situations – especially not like they do with Marvin Jones.

In 2013, when the Bengals had both Green and Jones available, the Bengals completed only nine passes to Green in the red zone for a total of four touchdowns. Contrast this with Jones, who had 12 receptions in the red zone for nine touchdowns. That’s 25 percent more receptions, and 225 percent more touchdowns!

Inside the 10-yard line, the same pattern held true. Jones had more receptions and more touchdowns. Jones received 17 percent of his targets once the Bengals reached the red zone, compared to only 11 percent for Green.

In 2014 with Jones out of the picture, the numbers did not get any better for Green in the red zone. In fact, they got worse. When the offense got into scoring position, Green saw fewer balls thrown his way and had fewer touchdowns scored (compared to 2013).

With Jones returning in 2015 it is reasonable to assume he will again resume his role as the primary wide receiver when the Bengals get into scoring position, thus allowing him to match, or surpass Green’s touchdown totals this year.

SHORTER PASSES

Jones may get as many, or more, touchdowns compared to Green, but Green will surely outdistance him on yardage, right?

Green excels as a finesse receiver who jukes cornerbacks out of their jockstraps as he strides open for the long pass. Unfortunately for Green, his quarterback isn’t exactly a long pass specialist. Also, with the offense now more run-heavy, the opportunities for deep vertical passes are not as prevalent as they could be.

The advent of running the two-headed backfield of Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard led to Green’s targets per game dropping last year to their lowest level since his rookie season. There are no indications Hue Jackson’s offense will substantially change from this run-heavy philosophy. So with fewer deep balls thrown his way, Green won’t have as many opportunities to get those long receptions, which help distance him from Jones in receiving yardage.

PROVE-IT CONTRACT YEAR

One commonly held assumption in sports is that players tend to perform better in their "contract year", which is the last year of their existing contract. The theory holds that a player is motivated to play better than normal in an attempt to maximize the value of their next contract.

Both Green and Jones are in line to become free agents after the upcoming 2015 season. So one could argue that they both stand to be motivated to play well in 2015, which is their "contract year". While this is true, there is more motivation for Jones.

With Green, we already know that he is elite. Whether he has a great season this year or not, Green stands to receive a big contract a la Dez Bryant and Demaryius Thomas. Jones, on the other hand, has a lot to gain from a great season. He is coming back from an injury and has much more to prove with only one good year under his belt. So if the "contract year" theory holds true, it seems to favor Jones being additionally motivated for a big season in 2015.

DALTON READING COVERAGE BETTER

In Andy Dalton’s rookie season, his reads were pretty simple: If Green is open, throw at him and hope the throw is on target. If Green is covered, throw at him and hope Green can make another circus catch.

But Hue Jackson has hammered into Dalton the mantra of not forcing bad passes to Green. This means less throwing to Green, with total disregard for the rest of the Bengals’ receiving options. This insistence on not being single-minded on Green, gives Jones better opportunities for receptions.

EASIER DEFENSIVE COVERAGE

Green is an elite talent at wide receiver. And as such, he will typically draw the opponent’s best coverage cornerback. And he should.

But this means Jones should usually (but not always) be playing against an inferior defender. Therefore, Jones should be able to get open easier, and if Dalton isn’t forcing balls to Green, an open Jones should be in line for his share of targets. This leads us to our next point.

JONES DOES MORE WITH LESS

Looking at the Bengals’ top three receivers in terms of career receptions per target:

Marvin Jones: 62%

Mohamed Sanu: 59%

A.J. Green: 57%

Even if Jones does not end the season with as many targets as Green, he has historically gotten more receptions per target. And, has shown he can get more done with less.

Consider too, that Jones gets touchdowns from 10 percent of his targets compared to only 6 percent for Green (and 5 percent for Sanu). So even if Jones is not the primary receiver, he can still get good yardage and touchdowns from fewer passes targeted his way.

Not any one thing in isolation will lead to Jones outperforming Green. But all of these factors taken together could propel Jones to a banner year in 2015, even ahead of Green.

So what do you think of this bold prediction? Does Jones have any chance of outperforming Green in 2015, or is this bold prediction just a bit too bold?