Will Marvin Jones improve upon his 2016 campaign?
Last offseason, the Detroit Lions signed Marvin Jones to a five-year $40,000,000 dollar contract. It was really the only choice they had. At the time, Calvin Johnson had retired, and they had no proven receivers other than Golden Tate. Although Marvin Jones set career highs for yards (930), yards per reception (16.9), yards per game (62), and catches of 20 or more yards (16 such catches) many considered it a somewhat disappointing first season in Detroit – he got off to a blazing hot start before seeming to disappear for much of the middle and end of the season. Here are the reasons why there is still hope that he can be the guy he was for the first four weeks of 2016 for all of 2017.
The Only True Deep Threat On The Team
Marvin Jones’ biggest strength is in the deep passing game. In 2016, Marvin Jones not only set a new career high for yards per reception (at 16.9 yards per catch), but he ranked 5th in the entire NFL in that category, ahead of receivers such as Dez Bryant, TY Hilton, AJ Green and Odell Beckham. Marvin Jones was also 11th place in the NFL for receptions of 20 or more yards (Marvin Jones caught 16 deep passes). To a lot of Lions fans, these statistics are probably surprising, but they do show that Marvin Jones is not only an effective deep threat but was one of the best deep threats in the entire NFL last year.
Here is an example of Marvin Jones’ deep ball skills. On this play, he is one on one with Josh Norman, one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL. Jones shows great speed as he simply runs right by him, and gets wide open behind the entire defense. Stafford throws the pass perfectly, and although Norman closes in on Jones at the end of the play, Jones shows great catching ability as he makes a diving reception.
Chemistry With Stafford
Soon after Marvin Jones signed his contract to play for the Detroit Lions, he started working on building chemistry with Stafford, as shown in this article from the 2016 preseason. While Marvin Jones wasn’t Stafford’s favorite receiver last season, they had several plays where they were on the same page and were able to use that chemistry to exploit defenses. Here are a few examples.
This play against the Eagles was a broken play that Stafford and Jones turned into a touchdown. The pass was supposed to go to Anquan Boldin on an out route, but he was well covered. Jones becomes aware of this, and does a great job of getting open in the back of the end zone as Stafford scrambles. Stafford throws a dart right to Jones, and Jones makes a great toe-tapping reception. Because both Jones and Stafford recognized that Boldin was covered, Detroit scored a touchdown here.
On this 3rd down and 17 to go play against the Bears, the play is broken almost from the get go, as Leonard Floyd almost sacks Stafford. Instead, Stafford does a great job of scrambling and buying time. He gets out of the pocket, as Marvin Jones gets open deep. Jones makes a good diving catch, and the Lions convert on third and long.
In 2016, Marvin Jones showed the ability to make ridiculous highlight reel catches. He had receptions where he leaped over defenders, dove for the ball or tapped his toes just before going out of bounds (sometimes he used combinations of the three). Here are a few examples of the “wow” catches that Marvin Jones has the ability to pull off.
On this play against the Giants, Jones is covered tightly by New York cornerback Eli Apple. Apple is covering Jones one on one, and Stafford just lobs the ball up in the direction of the two almost as soon as the play starts. Apple has good coverage on Jones, but Jones makes a perfect adjustment to the pass and makes the difficult diving reception, resulting in a third down conversion for the Lions.
Although this next clip is from a preseason game against the Bengals, it still shows great ability from Jones. Jones shows off his talents as a deep threat on this play, as he gets between the cornerback and the safety. Stafford fits the ball in the window between the Cincinnati defenders, and Jones makes a great adjustment turning around for the ball. After catching the ball, Jones does a great job of tapping his feet down in bounds.
Flaws In Jones’ Game
Marvin Jones started the 2016 season off extremely hot, but then fizzled out down the stretch. Over the first four games of the season, Jones averaged 5.75 catches and 120.5 yards per game. Over the last 12 games (counting the playoff game in Seattle), Jones averaged just three catches and 37.3 yards per game. He had four games during that stretch with two or fewer receptions. He also only had two touchdown receptions during the same 12 game stretch and finished the season on a 10 game streak without a touchdown reception. So the question for many Lions fans right now is which Marvin Jones is the real one, the one who averaged 120 yards per game that we saw briefly, or the one who averaged 37 yards per game that we saw for most of the season?
Marvin Jones also had issues with drops last season. He had six dropped passes on the season, which was the ninth worst of any player throughout the whole of last season. This was very prevalent in the playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks, in which he had a key drop during the 3rd quarter of the game.
Marvin Jones is not anywhere near the receiver that Calvin Johnson was, but that is okay. Jones is never going to put up a 1600 yard season or lead the league in touchdowns, but we don’t need him to. His role for the 2017 season is going to be as a deep threat, he is going to take coverage away from underneath receivers like Golden Tate, Theo Riddick, and Eric Ebron. And when defenses don’t give Jones extra coverage, he is going to make them pay for it by burning them for big plays.
2017 Statistics Projection: 50 receptions, 850 yards (17 yards per reception), 15 receptions of +20 yards, five touchdowns.
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