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Marvin Jones has breakout practice; ready for preseason opener vs. Giants

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The Bengals badly missed Marvin Jones last year. They're expecting him to be a big part of the offense in his return this season.

Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time in Bengals training camp this year, Marvin Jones was in full pads and running with the starters during Wednesday's practice.

After missing all of last year with foot and ankle injuries, Jones had been slowly easing back into full football activities since the start of camp before a hamstring injury sidelined him for most of last week. Jones returned Monday for a session in shoulder pads and shorts, but Wednesday saw him practicing full go for the first time.

It also ended up being perhaps the best practice Jones has had since returning from a disastrous 2014, as he told Bengals.com.

"I opened it up really for the first time  since I’ve been back in this thing," Jones said. "Every time you can get football moments where you fall and it gets gritty and some body cleats you like I got cleated, I got up and said, ‘OK. That’s cool. You want those. I haven’t been in those situations  and for me to get back doing that is pretty cool.

"My legs basically had to catch up. I don’t want to keep harping  on it. But you sit out and come back and try to put back-to-back-to-back days on it, my hamstrings had to climb aboard. They’re doing it now. I knew they were going to come along. But nothing surprised me after what I’ve been through."

As Jones alluded to, he was cleated in the stomach during team drills as he went up for a contested pass and as he came down, his defender accidentally stepped on his side, but Jones popped right back up.

Now, Jones has his sights set on Friday's preseason opener, which will be the first NFL game he's played in since January of 2014 vs. the Chargers in the playoffs. That was the same game during which Jones set career-highs in catches (8) and yards (130). Those 130 receiving yards are also a Bengals playoff franchise record. That's how big of an impact he can have on this offense when healthy.

"Preseason games bridge a gap from the preseason to the regular season," Jones said. "But it’s a good opportunity to go. It’s the final step of the process and take hits and score touchdowns and run and do all the stuff I can do. It’s good to do that."

As of now, Jones is listed as a backup receiver behind starters Mohamed Sanu and A.J. Green on the Bengals' initial depth chart. When he was healthy in 2013, there was no question he was the team's second-best pass-catcher behind only the All-Pro Green.

However, Sanu has been having a great camp and has certainly earned the right to start next to Green. Perhaps that's why Jones stepped up his game this week now what he realizes that No. 2 spot won't be handed to him.

It also helps that Jones, along with Sanu, is in a contract year with millions of dollars on the line based on how well he does this year. Sanu actually has a pretty clear body of work, and his performance in 2015 shouldn't drastically alter the kind of contract he gets in free agency next year.

That's not the case with Jones though, who has one great year under his belt (2013) and one lost year to go with it (2014). If he has a big 2015 season, he could be getting a contract that pays him around $20-25 million dollars over a three to four year span. If Jones flounders though, he may just be getting a one-year 'prove it' deal next year that nets him a few million dollars.

Whatever his future holds, it's good to see Jones is finally starting to shine again in the present.