There were a lot of questions to answer for the Detroit Lions franchise following the 2015-16 season. The two main ones that fans and people around the league wondered: Who would replace Martin Mayhew as general manager in Detroit? And how will the Detroit Lions and Matthew Stafford perform in the aftermath of Calvin Johnson’s retirement?
The first question would be answered relatively quickly when the Lions hired Bob Quinn to replace Mayhew. Quinn was tasked with keeping a team that many thought was kept afloat by a wide receiver, from falling back to the bottom grounds of the NFL. He went for the obvious solution to the problem and to many critics surprise, it has worked out rather well.
Marvin Jones was viewed by many as the top free agent wide receiver of the 2016 offseason and not everybody was thrilled that Detroit threw more than enough money at him to make sure that he would be a Lion for years to come. Five years and $40 million with $20 million guaranteed seemed a bit steep for a player that had never eclipsed 816 receiving yards prior to signing with the team. Thus far in his time in Detroit, however, Jones has proven himself to be more than worth the money the team gave him.
There were some questions about his consistency going into last season because of an up and down first year with the team. After leading the league in receiving yards through the first four weeks of the season, Jones finished the year with a then career high 930 yards. But with the way that the last 12 games of the year went, (sometimes it felt like he wasn’t even on the field) not very many people were convinced that he could produce much more then he did that season after starting out so hot.
Last year, Marvin proved to us that he is in fact a strong number 1/2 receiver and is capable of being a consistent producer throughout an entire season. He set a career high in total receiving yards, yards per reception, and had his most receiving TDs in a season since 2013. Questions about his ability to separate and gain space for receptions were met with a bevy of spectacular plays made in traffic and some terrific endzone catches.
For those of you who still don’t think that he was worth the contract they gave him, take a look at his two seasons in Detroit and how he compares to receivers who were making about what he made during said season.
2016: 55 Rec, 930 Yds (32nd), 4 TDs (T-48th); 27th highest paid WR
2017: 61 Rec, 1101 Yds (9th), 9 TDs (T-4th); 17th highest paid WR
The argument could be made that Jones under-performed in his first season with the team but that could also be countered by saying that he over-performed in 2017. In my opinion, he’s been worth his contract and more up to this point and there’s reason to believe that his 2018 campaign could be even better than last year. With Eric Ebron out of the picture and his targets up for grabs this season it’s not crazy to think that Marvin Jones could haul in at least 5-10 more receptions this year. I do think that Kenny Golladay will see a lot of those targets along with the two free agent tight ends the Lions brought in getting a few their way. Expect Marvin Jones’ production to look something like this in 2018:
68 Rec, 1186 Yds, 8 TDs
These stats would also be coming whilst being the 21st paid wide receiver in the league and that’s well worth it in my book.
Back to a question that I brought up at the beginning: How would the Detroit Lions and Matthew Stafford perform after Calvin Johnson’s retirement? The narrative at the time was that Stafford was mediocre and spent his time being “bailed-out” by Megatron in all of his glory. The team’s overall performance really hasn’t dropped off at all and anybody that has paid attention since 2016 should recognize that Stafford was not a product of Calvin Johnson and is capable of performing at an even higher level without the best receiver in the league.
Marvin Jones has been a part of changing that narrative. Nobody would dare put Calvin Johnson and Marvin Jones’ overall ability on the same level, which is a big help for Stafford’s legacy. Nowadays, the Lions quarterback is getting more of the credit that he deserves and rightly so.