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Bonding with a ball


Marvin Jones: "I'm not going to go out and just say, 'Oh yeah, I'm definitely going to the Pro Bowl. I'm going to be an elite receiver.' I do believe that in my heart."

Fresh off a bonding and ball session at the Texas home of their quarterback, the Bengals wide receivers are energized about a training camp that opens two weeks from Thursday at Paul Brown Stadium in a 3 p.m. practice.

Shortly after they flew out of Dallas this week, three-time Pro Bowler A.J. Green was named the league's ninth best player in an NFL Network survey. Marvin Jones, who starts opposite him after last year's breakout 10-TD season, is speaking softly but confidently about that next level.

"I'm not going to go out and just say, 'Oh yeah, I'm definitely going to the Pro Bowl. I'm going to be an elite receiver,'' Jones said. "I do believe that in my heart. But I'm not going to go out there and say it. I'm going to say it by what I do on the field. What I do on the field, it can't be denied if I just take care of my opportunities. Whether it's 15 targets, six targets or three targets. I want to make sure they're all 100 percent when I go out there on the field."

Elite may be just a few fingertips away.

Jones had 77 of those opportunities in his second season and caught 51 of them, making him 29th in the league in converting targets into catches, best on the Bengals, according to That allowed Jones to join Green, Isaac Curtis, Cris Collinsworth, and Chad Johnson as the only Bengals to average at least 14 yards per catch while scoring at least 10 touchdowns.

Those guys have been to a total of 15 Pro Bowls.

"That's what I love to do. Take care of my opportunities and just explode," Jones said. "That's what I try to do."

Mohamed Sanu, the starting slot receiver who also attended Andy Dalton's two-day baby not mini camp along with Brandon Tate, Ryan Whalen, and Cobi Hamilton, believes the receivers as a group can reach elite. There is that not so small matter of execution.

"We can definitely do it. It's up to us. There's a difference between knowing it and doing it," Sanu said. "We look a lot better.  We have another season under our belt and I think this year should be a good one. We have all the things we worked on this offseason and its showing. We all look really good, explosive, fast, strong, in shape. Now we have to fine tune everything so that all 11 guys on offense are on the same page."

That was one of the ideas behind Dalton's invitation to throw at Texas Christian University. Sanu says, "I can't think of a route we didn't run…It was all about getting our timing down." But the timing came at a good time for something else.

"The bonding is a big thing,' Jones said. "That's something we don't get to do while we're in the rigors of camp and going at it every day. You get a chance to step back and be with each other. It's good to have that bond with the fellas. It makes us stronger on the field in terms of helping each other, being there for each other, everybody picking up everybody. That was great to do."

In addition to picking up the tab for their food and hotel rooms, Dalton opened the gates to his home and hosted a barbecue dinner as well as swimming and several games of H-O-R-S-E.

"We hung around his man-cave, played a little basketball game with a hoop in there, and we were just chatting it up," Sanu said. "He takes charge. We'll follow him where ever he wants to take us."

That, of course, is deep into the postseason. But a little camaraderie right before the preseason probably doesn't hurt any. And they hit it just right as Dalton and wife Jordan were still getting acclimated to the June 30 birth of Noah, their first child.

("Noah's a cute baby," Sanu assured.)

"Some guys (on other teams) won't do it," Jones said of the travel for the camp. "We want to get things headed in the right direction. We want to change the game. I think with the core we have, we're like brothers. We're just so close.

"When Andy called and said, 'Hey, c'mon down,' everyone was on board," Jones said. "We all stay in contact. There's not a day or an hour that goes by that all of us aren't in a group text talking. That's what I love about it."

They're even talking about loving the drudgery of training camp.

"I always make it a point to go back to the basics. Hone in on the fundamentals. That's what camp is for because you're going to grind," Jones said. "I just want to keep doing what I've been doing and that's be consistent and work on having a great practice every practice."

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