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Stat check: Amazing A.J., Marvelous Marv eye a Bengals first

Posted Dec 19, 2013

A.J. Green (8) and Marvin Jones (9) can become the first pair of Bengals wide receivers to catch at least 10 touchdowns in a season.


A.J. Green

No tandem in Bengals history has ever done it.

Not Chad Johnson-T.J. Houshmandzadeh or Eddie Brown-Tim McGee or Isaac Curtis and anybody else.

But with two games left, soon to be three-time Pro Bowler A.J. Green (8) and sophomore Marvin Lewis Jones (9) playing in his first full season can become the first pair of Bengals wide receivers to catch at least 10 touchdowns in a season. Jones bids to become the club's first No. 2 receiver with 10 since Houshmandzadeh's Pro Bowl season of 2007 netted 12.

Jones looks like he's heating up again. You wouldn't expect anything less from a guy traded for Chad Johnson (he was the 2012 fifth-rounder) with his head coach's name.

After catching a Bengals-record four touchdowns against the Jets on Oct. 27, Jones didn't score again until one in each of the last two games as he plays through the ups and downs of any second-year player who played just 11 games as a rookie because of a knee injury.

But one thing that has been a constant is that he's money in the red zone. Eight of his nine touchdowns have come inside the 20. It's a big reason the Bengals are second in the NFL scoring red-zone touchdowns nearly 72 percent of the time. It's a matchup to watch Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium (1 p.m., tickets still available) because the Vikings give up TDs in the red area nearly 60 percent of the time.

"When we go into the red zone I want to be the guy that makes the play when it comes to me," Jones said after Thursday's practice. "Everybody has to look at A.J. If there's a look where he's getting doubled, and he gets doubled a lot in the red zone with kind of like a vise with two people standing in front of him, then we have opportunities with me if they leave him single."

So far, they have. Jones can't remember anything but single coverage when the Bengals buzz in the red zone with Green and tight ends Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert.

Gresham and Eifert are supposed to be the Gronk-like targets down there, but receivers coach James Urban isn't surprised at Jones's production in the red zone.

"Here's a guy who's got really good ball skills, can run and jump and has got good size, so it makes sense," Urban said. "We know he's a playmaker."

According to Pro Football Focus, Jones is seventh in the NFL among receivers when computing passer rating with his numbers. Green is 65th because there have been nine interceptions thrown his way and just two to Jones. It shows the kind of relentless coverage Green sees.

"If A.J. gets singled, he's going to gash them," Jones said. "I feel like us two on the opposite sides in the red zone, we'll take those chances any day."

The numbers go along with what Urban preaches in his room.

"Sometimes it's a natural and the defense is saying, 'No way 18 (Green) is scoring here and Andy (Dalton) knows he's got to go somewhere else,' " Urban said. "All our guys have to be ready when the defense takes away A.J. like that and Marv has done a good job taking advantage of his chances."

Jones's strength coming out of Cal was supposed to be the deep ball. But three Bengals including Eifert have catches longer than Jones's long of 45. But the 6-2, 195-pound Jones has succeeded in the nooks and crannies with surprising strength and confidence for a soft-spoken guy that is cautious with words.

"I wouldn't say prideful," Jones said when asked if his ability to catch touchdowns comes from that trait.

But make no mistake. He's got enormous confidence whenever he's matched up one-on-one.

"I feel like when we're in the red zone and it's just one-on-one," Jones said, "100 percent of the time I'm going to come down with that touchdown."

And a part of history if Jones and Green can score a couple more. The closest the Bengals have come to two receivers with at least 10 TDs in the same season was 2006, when another second-year guy, Chris Henry, scored nine touchdowns to go with Houshmandzadeh's nine.

And keep an eye on Green's career TDs. He's got 26, one more than McGee and one behind James Brooks for 10th already on the Bengals all-time list.

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