Bengals defense keeping up with Jones


Adam Jones

Updated: 5:45 p.m.

Adam Jones says he has agreed to a three-year deal with the Bengals. He also wants to retire as a Bengal. But don't get the two confused.

"I want to play more than three years. I've got more than three years left," Jones said Thursday, a 29-year-old cornerback that has seen all sides of the NFL life. "I really like the situation here. We've got something special going on the defensive side of the ball and the offensive side of the ball."

It is special enough that Jones teamed with Leon Hall and Terence Newman to give Cincinnati its strongest cornerback play in perhaps a generation. Working on the outside with Hall moving into the slot against three receivers, Jones and Newman helped hold foes to four touchdown passes in the last nine games for a defense that allowed just 13 points per game in that stretch and finished the season ranked eighth in the NFL in pass coverage, according to Pro Football Focus.

After having a long conversation with Newman recently, Jones is confident he'll re-sign, too, and if he does, that means the Bengals will have kept the players they targeted on a defense that finished sixth in the NFL last season. It began with the franchising of right end Michael Johnson, continued with wrapping up the club's most experienced linebacker in MIKE backer Rey Maualuga, and kept going with the Bengals fending off a bid by old friend Kevin Coyle to get Jones on his highly-regarded Dolphins defense.

Jones is going to remain the club's career leader in return touchdowns with word Thursday afternoon that Ted Ginn Jr., signed a one-year deal in Carolina. The Bengals are believed to be talking to Brandon Tate returning as a backup wide receiver/kick returner as well as backup quarterback Josh Johnson. 

"I was talking to Leon and the first thing I asked him is 'How long is your contract?' " Jones said. "We've got a pretty good tandem going back there. The three of us like playing together. It's fun. One of us might be down one day, but the other guy picks him up."

His three-year contract signals another chapter in one of the most fascinating stories of the NFL's equally fascinating 21st century.

Jones went from celebrated top 10 pick complete with the Central Casting nickname of Pacman to poster child of Roger Goodell's conduct crackdown with a police record longer than one of his five career punt return touchdowns. After sitting out two seasons in three years, Jones surfaced in Cincinnati in 2010 at the urging of Deion Sanders on the one-year-minimum-salary comeback trail as simply "Adam" without the nickname. But he was blunted by surgery for a career-threatening herniated neck disk.

Finally last season Jones played all 16 games for the first time in his six years. He was physical enough to rack up 43 tackles while defending 11 passes and PFF ranked him the sixth-best cover cornerback in the NFL playing at least 25 percent of the snaps.

And before the season, he appeared at the NFL Rookie Symposium and got rave reviews for his How Not To Do It Speech that put him on speed dial for a new generation of players.

"I'm thankful for the situation. I had other options, but it didn't make sense for me to burn bridges with someone who has been with me when no one else was there," Jones said. "People say this and that about the money. I just wanted to feel comfortable and be somewhere where I'm appreciated. I love the city. For the last three years I've built a great foundation here. I like it here."

Jones, his fiancée Tish and their two-year-old daughter Trinity have become staples on the east side of Cincinnati, where they spend most of the year. Six-year-old Zaniyah also visits often. Jones has become involved in Cincinnati Chief of Police James Gray's mentoring program for at-risk youth.

"I felt like the Bengals wanted me more than other teams. I trust them. This is a place that I call home. When no one else wanted to take a chance on me, the Bengals did," Jones said. "When I was hurt they kept me after my neck surgery. My family loves it here. We have no problems. If it's not broke, why fix it?"

Which is precisely why the Bengals wanted Jones back. You can talk about his solid 626 snaps form scrimmage mainly on third down (PFF says he allowed only two touchdowns), but he's also one of the game's most feared punt returners.

And it wasn't so much his returns, and he was explosive, winning the home opener against Cleveland and AFC Special Teams Player of the Week with an 81-yard touchdown return. But it was how Jones made opposing punters kick it away from him and put their defenses in bad field position with shanks and short punts that bordered on the comical. His 11.6-yard average return was seventh in the league.

The relationship with defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer and Jones has grown as much as Jones himself. Both guys have a lot of pride and emotion.

"I respect Zim. I respect the way he coaches. He treats everyone the same," Jones said. "Zim has brought me a long way. I'm very comfortable in the defense. I can truly tell you where the linemen are going to be, all the blitzes, where I have help and where I don't have help."

When Jones signed, Zimmer challenged him to play within the defense, rely on technique and not talent, and not freelance. Or else he was gone. Well, he's still around and been a big part of back-to-back playoff runs.

"Playing mostly third down, there's not a lot of times you can go out there and jump a route. You've got to play it safe, play within the game," Jones said. "I can get better. Zim and I watched the playoff game. I can be tighter on some plays.

"The more plays you're out there, you get a better feel and you can take more chances, but I'm comfortable with what I'm doing and how I'm used. I'm just trying to help my team win games."

And Jones thinks the Bengals can win more than the 19 they've won over the past two seasons.

"The Brown (family) does a good job. They know what it takes to win. We've been to playoffs the last two years and I tip my hat to them for the guys they've brought in and taken chances on," Jones said. "We've got a chance here to be special and the goal now is to get in the playoffs and find a way to win."

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