In Week 12, Adam Jones returned a punt 55-yards for a touchdown.
The play was called back because of a block-in-the-back penalty, but it still showed that Jones still has that extra gear that is needed for taking a punt back all the way.
That’s what he told Geoff Hobson of the Bengals’ website after practice on Friday:
“I think people get the point of the memo. I still got what I need back there,” Jones said after Friday’s practice. “I’m just waiting patiently and hopefully my time will come this week.”
It is disappointing the score was called back. Marvin Lewis, and just about everyone else, didn’t see the penalty that negated the play, and the league later confirmed to the Bengals that the flag shouldn’t have been thrown.
The phantom call also negated an amazing celebration where Jones pretended to give birth to the football. This was an obvious nod to his son that was born the night before the game.
At the age of 35, though, Jones seems to have gained a second wind in the return game. It had been five years since he last scored a punt return touchdown. A lot of Jones’ confidence comes from Darrin Simmons, the Bengals’ Special teams coordinator.
“I’m thinking getting something positive out of each one. Taking it up 10, 15 yards,” Jones said. “I wanted that one for the records, too. I can’t do it for him if I can’t do it for myself. I’ll make sure he remembers it.”
Jones is currently has five punt returns for touchdowns, and he is tied with Marcus Sherels for the second most by an active player. Darren Sproles currently has the most with six punt returns for touchdowns.
Jones’ reemergence as a returner could have a nice ripple effect on this team. First, it frees up more playing time for William Jackson and Darqueze Dennard at corner. It would effectively allow the secondary to go into the future.
It also could help the offense. If Alex Erickson isn’t returning punts, it opens himself up to being able to play more offensive snaps. It is clear that when Erickson is out there on offense, Andy Dalton trusts him, and he gets the ball to his young receiver.
Erickson only has 10 catches on the season, but most of those have gone for first downs. That also includes his first touchdown catch in the NFL when he scored against the Broncos.
Obviously, we all want John Ross to play, but if the Bengals aren’t willing to, then they should at least give Erickson to prove himself. The Tyler Boyd and Brandon LaFell show has left a lot to be desired. If this season starts to go south, the Bengals should seriously consider turning the punt returning duties over to Jones, and allowing Erickson to get more work in on offense.
The last advantage to having Jones returning punts is the home run ability Jones still has. Erickson is a great returner, but he is never able to hit that second gear that results in a touchdown. He has never returned a kickoff or punt for a touchdown, despite being close several times.
If the Bengals decide to rotate return duties between the two players that would make sense, but it could help the team to just put Jones back there for now, and to see what they have with Erickson on offense.