Cincinnati Bengals: Marvin Jones Must Be a True No. 2


The Cincinnati Bengals have one of the Top 5—or 10, if you’re on the conservative side—wide receivers in the NFL in A.J. Green. Beyond Green, however, is a receiving corps that’s flush with inconsistency and health concerns.

The talent is clear, but that’s rarely enough.

Tyler Eifert has a world of potential at tight end, Marvin Jones had an explosive 2013 campaign and Mohamed Sanu is a true playmaker. Eifert and Jones also have significant health concerns, and Sanu had the worst drop percentage in the NFL.

Thus, the question beckons: is Jones capable of being a true No. 2 wide receiver? He’ll need to be.

In 2013, Jones pulled down 51 receptions for 712 yards, 10 touchdowns and 36 first downs on 80 targets. That was good for an average of 14.0 yards per reception.

The 10 touchdowns alone prompted the belief to grow that Cincinnati had a rising star on its hands.

Unfortunately, Jones missed all 16 games in 2014 with ankle and foot injuries. That derailed his momentum and set the tone for a season during which Eifert, Green, Jermaine Gresham and Jones all missed significant time.

For as promising as Jones’ 2013 season was, his 2014 campaign is just as concerning. That makes health the primary concern.

The operative word, of course, is primary.

Even if he does remain healthy, Jones hasn’t exactly entered the ranks of the elite. His 10 receiving touchdowns from 2013 jump off the page, but they’re quite misleading.

Four were in one game and only three were recorded in the final eight games of the season.

Dec 1, 2013; San Diego, CA, USA; Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green (18) celebrates with wide receiver Marvin Jones (82) after catching a touchdown pass during the second half against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium. The Bengals won 17-10. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The further concerning news is that Jones’ final regular season eight games saw him record just 23 receptions. The promising news is that Jones caught eight passes for 130 yards during the 2013 NFL Playoffs.

The question is, which player will the Bengals have in 2015?

If Jones can be a red zone threat who moves the chains and gets into the end zone, the Bengals would have a chance to round into elite form on offense. Green is a star, Jeremy Hill and Gio Bernard are rising, and the combination of Eifert and Sanu could be lethal.

If Jones fails to be the player he’s expected to be, however, Cincinnati would suffer something of a setback.

It’s entirely possible that Sanu could pass Jones and this could all end up being meaningless conjecture. Sanu caught 56 passes for 790 yards and five touchdowns in 2014 while facing some of the top cornerbacks in the NFL.

The Bengals have simply lived too long on ifs and maybes.

For Andy Dalton to get over the hump and lead the Bengals as far as they’re capable of going, Jones needs to build upon his 2013 campaign. Beyond remaining healthy, he needs to be the player he was in the 2013 NFL Playoffs.

When teams double the coverage on Green, Jones must make them pay.

If he’s successful in emerging as the true No. 2, the Bengals’ offense would evolve into a dynamic and borderline unstoppable attack. If he’s unsuccessful, the offense would regress to a solid, but not elite group.

That’s a heavy burden for a player who missed all 16 games in 2014, but in Cincinnati, expectations are higher than ever—for everyone.

More from NFL Spin Zone