Marvin Jones has had to make a lot of contested catches in recent years.
Marvin Jones is a name that many fans of the NFL have heard of, but don’t really pay much mind. After a 2018 season that was cut short by a knee injury after only nine games, it’s easy to understand why. On the other hand, Marvin Jones’ impact on the Lions goes far beyond what the box scores would indicate when he’s on the field.
Demands Tight Coverage from Defenses
One of the best attributes of Marvin Jones and his impact on the team beyond his statistical output is his ability to draw tight coverage. No primary pass catcher in all of football was allowed a smaller cushion at the line of scrimmage last season. Additionally, only two of the next three players that were within a half yard were tight ends Antonio Gates and OJ Howard. The only receiver who was given a cushion within a half yard less of Marvin Jones last year was the Cincinnati Bengals top receiver A.J Green.
Still however, Marvin Jones gets knocked for his lack of ability to create separation. Which might be fair, given that he only creates about 2.2 yards per route run, however that’s still better than some other top receivers including the aforementioned Green, Josh Gordon, Mike Evans, and the Chicago Bears #1 receiving threat last year Allen Robinson amongst others. Marvin may not have the size of a receiver like Mike Evans, however he’s still someone who can win contested catching situations as he’s shown on multiple occasions over his time in Detroit.
An Ideal Deep Target
One more reason Marvin Jones could be poised for a career year this season is depth of targets. Under Bevell, the Lions figure to use the deep ball much more often than in the recent past. In 2018, Matthew Stafford was 24th in the league in passes 20 yards or more down field with an average of only 3.1 per game. However, Marvin Jones averaged 15.2 targeted air yards while healthy last season, which was tied for tenth highest in the league. If the Lions plan to throw the ball deep more frequently, with a healthy Marvin Jones, a breakout season should be expected in 2019.
If Marvin Jones’ average depth of target stays about where it was last season, and he doubles the amount of receptions he had over his half a season last year (so 15 yards per catch on roughly 70 receptions) that would put him on track for at least another 1,000 yard season. Even still, that’s without considering the positive impact Bevell will have, or other hard-to-predict measures like the benefit of having a legitimate pass-catching tight end to help draw attention.
Scheme and Playcalling Improvements
One factor that goes fairly under the radar and could lead to a breakout season for Marvin Jones is how many play calls the Lions ran under Jim Bob Cooter with only two routes for defenders to guard. It was a serious issue last season for Detroit, and was part of why players weren’t able to create much separation. Not only are the Lions most likely going to add reads and options for quarterback Matthew Stafford, but also the scheme under new offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell should help scheme Marvin Jones and Kenny Golladay both open more during his tenure with the team. The additions of T.J. Hockenson and Danny Amendola specifically should help the cause.
In 2016, both Seahawks primary receivers Tyler Lockett and Doug Baldwin had almost a full yard more of separation than Marvin Jones had the benefit of last season. While part of that can be attributed to talent level, part of the issue was also scheme and playcalling. The Lions have hopefully addressed that concern for the 2019 season.
Underrated Creator After the Catch
Another reason Marvin Jones could be in for a breakthrough season this year is his ability to create after the catch. While Golden Tate was the Lions primary yards after catch receiver while on the team, Marvin Jones is better than he’s given credit for in this department. Last season, Jones finished 0.8 yards per touch better than expected after the catch. While that may not seem like a lot, a difference of 0.8 is actually just shy of 10th among all receivers. An average of three yards after the catch spread out over roughly 60 receptions equates to about 180 yards after the catch.
Overall, if Marvin Jones can produce even up to expectations this season, he should be in for an excellent year for the Detroit Lions, both on the field for the team, and in the fantasy football world this season.