There’s a lot of reasons why the Bengals are 3-5-1, but perhaps none have been as big as the dramatic decline of the secondary.
After ranking at the top of seemingly every major pass defense category in 2015, Cincinnati ranks closer to the bottom in most areas this season. That includes ranking 21st in yards per pass allowed, 26th in passing scores, 20th in opponent passer rating, and 21st in opponent completion percentage heading into Week 11.
A number of defensive backs have contributed to this drop, but the biggest drop-off is coming from Adam Jones. A Pro Bowl selection last year after playing like an elite corner, Jones has been average at best this season, as evidenced by Pro Football Focus ranking him as their 87th-best cornerback this season out of 116 eligible players.
In fact, after Dre Kirkpatrick’s big game on Monday vs the Giants, Jones is now the lowest-ranked Bengals corner (Kirkpatrick is 74th, Josh Shaw is 50th, and Darqueze Dennard hasn’t played enough snaps to be ranked).
That shows just how far Jones has fallen this season, and part of it has to do with him trying to make up for other players’ mistakes and play hero ball, as he told the Cincinnati Enquirer.
On the 2nd-and-5 play from the Bengals' 10, Beckham, Jr. dug down off the top of his route, looking like he was going to sit there and wait for the ball. Eli Manning pumped, and Jones bit. Beckham, Jr. then spun to the outside and was left all alone in the end zone.
“I’ve got to be more patient,” Jones said. “I should’ve just let him catch it and tackle the ball. That’s the smart thing to do, instead of trying to be a hero.”
Beckham caught 10 of the 11 targets he saw for 97 yards. One catch went for 21 yards, so nine of receptions resulted in 8.4 yards per catch. The two-time Pro Bowler came in averaging a career high 15.4.
Odell Beckham Jr. racked up 10 grabs for 97 yards against the Bengals, his third best game of the season. Following the Bengals loss to the Giants, all Jones can think about was that one play in the red zone when he bit too hard on a pump fake looking to make a pick, and got burned for six instead.
“I’m just mad about the one he caught on me,” Jones said. “I take mines a lot more personally than some guys. It’s a hard feeling when you work so hard and the bad (expletive) part about it is I damn near watched every play they did. I’ve done seen that play 100 times.”
Playing hero ball and trying to make a big play while the rest of the defense is certainly part of Jones’ struggles, but he’s still been shaky far too often this season compared to what we’re used to seeing out of him.
But then again, can we really be ‘surprised’ that a 33-year-old corner is having a sharp decline in his level of play? Most corners at 33 are close to or already in retirement, so maybe we shouldn’t be shocked that father time appears to finally be catching up to Jones.