Marvin Lewis Jones, traded for Chad Johnson and second only to A.J. Green in the seemingly endless line of Bengals receivers with three touchdown catches, is living up to the names.
Jones capped off a breathtaking two weeks of versatility Sunday in Detroit by bouncing off the deck with an injured shoulder on his first-half touchdown catch to make two ice-cold third-and-long plays that kept alive second-half drives netting 10 points.
"When it happened initially I thought, 'Oh no,' " said Jones, who didn't practice Wednesday and Thursday. "But as long as I can run, I'm OK. They checked me out and they said they were good with me going back in. I just had to fight through it."
Fight? Here's a guy that came into the league as a fifth-round pick in 2012 out of Cal (via one of the choices the Patriots gave up for Johnson) who was supposed to be a speed receiver that would have his rough edges manicured. And early in his career he wowed the Bengals in practice with his signature "Go" routes gobbling everything.
But at 6-2, 195 pounds, Jones has done everything in his breakout season but catch the deep ball. His longest play came on an electrifying 42-yard screen two weeks ago in Buffalo.
"The only reason is because it hasn't happened yet," receivers coach James Urban said of the 'Go' ball. "We knew he was a tough guy, a tough-minded guy, well-grounded when we got him. He is all football player. To me Marv showed what he's all about in Buffalo.
"He made a tackle on a punt, had a big block on the punt return at the end (with fellow receiver Dane Sanzenbacher on the edge), ran an end-round (for 34 yards), caught the big screen, had a big block (on wide receiver Mohamed Sanu's 12-yard quick catch-and-run), and scored a touchdown. That's pretty much what he can do."
It also pretty much sums up what quarterback Andy Dalton has at his disposal on third down. With his plays on third-and-12 and third-and-seven in Detroit, Jones joined Sanu, tight end Jermaine Gresham and running back Giovani Bernard with six third-down catches each. With Green's nine, that puts five Bengals in the top 40 in AFC third-down receiving. Although Jones hasn't worked yet this week, there is the sense he'll play Sunday since he went back into the game after getting checked out.
"He's been practicing really hard. You see the different things he's done in practice and it has translated into these games. He's getting open, he's making catches in key situations and I've got a lot of trust in a guy like that," Dalton said this week. "When you see a guy that sells out for a touchdown, catches it and comes back, and he's hurting, and doesn't let it affect him, that shows a lot for the teammates. It shows he's a guy you can trust."
Third-and-12? Jones figures he was Dalton's last option.
With three receivers lined up to one side, Jones was the lone receiver to the other side and he ran toward the strength as Dalton surveyed, stepped up and found him on the back side over the middle for 18 yards.
"That's what we teach our guys," Urban says. "Run the route all the way through. You never know."
Third-and-seven? With the Lions worried about Green, the Bengals split him and Sanzenbacher wide left and Jones singled up again wide right, which put him one-on-one with cornerback Darius Slay. Jones easily beat him to the sideline and Dalton led Jones there shielding off Slay with an 11-yard gain.
"It's good to have that kind of trust. It's something Andy and I work on whether it's in the meeting room or on the field," Jones said. "Trying to see the game through each other's eyes. That's what all of us are looking for as receivers."
*REX FILES: *The Bengals haven't had success against Jets head coach Rex Ryan recently. They've lost to him five straight times, the first two while he was the defensive coordinator of the Ravens in a 2008 sweep, and the last three coming against his Jets of 2009 and 2010.
And four of those wins came with the help of rookie quarterbacks and Ryan rolls out another one in Geno Smith this Sunday.
But in those five games the Bengals had a severely limited passing game because of either injuries or a lack of personnel and consistency. And yet when the Bengals had a Pro Bowl quarterback and a variety of passing options, Carson Palmer, Chad Johnson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and company went 5-1 against Ryan's defenses in Baltimore from 2005-2007.
The common denominator? In those six games the Bengals had six touchdown passes of at least 26 yards and four other passes of at least 48. The so-called complementary receivers of Houshmandzadeh and Chris Henry scored on four of those long balls and added three more of at least 50 yards as the Bengals exposed Ryan's penchant to blitz and leave his corners one-on-one.
So do we see big days for the non-A.J. Green targets, wide receivers Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu and tight ends Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert? Pro Football Focus has rated Jones fourth overall among receivers and Eifert (8) and Gresham (15) are in the top 15 among tight ends for yards per route they've run.
Maybe, but according to an NFL scout this isn't quite the Rex Ryan of the Ravens. Or even the Jets that beat the Bengals daring them to throw with such elderly receivers as Laveranues Coles and Terrell Owens. He's simply not as talented in the secondary. Outside of 1B cornerback Antonio Cromartie, there are no Darrelle Revises or Ed Reeds or Chris McAlisters and there is less bump-and-run-man-to-man outside.
"This has got to be one of Rex's best coaching jobs," the scout says. "He doesn't have the talent he's had back there, so he's picking his spots carefully for the blitz and for leaving his corners isolated and it looks like he's relying more these days on a four-man rush from one of the best lines in the league."
And it's working. The Jets are fourth in the NFL defense and according to Elias they've given up just three passes of plus-40 yards. But at some point the Bengals figure to get some shots one-on-one even if it isn't as many as back in the day.
All of which makes the 6-4, 215-pound Green vs. the 6-2, 210-pound Cromartie quite interesting. PFF rates Cromartie the 15th-best cover cornerback in the NFL, allowing three TDs in 45 targets. PFF has Green rated the eighth most productive wide receiver in the league on yards per route that he's run.
Greg McElroy, the Bengals practice squad quarterback, has thrown to Green and at Cromartie. The Jets drafted McElroy in the seventh round out of Alabama in 2011 and he stayed in New York until the Jets released him at the end of this training camp and he hooked on with the Bengals.
"They're both prototypical in exactly how you want a player at that position to look," McElroy says. "Cromartie is so fast, he's got a great feel, he's tremendous at the line of scrimmage. He's able to recover so well because he's so long and physical. He's really taken his game to a whole new level the last couple of years.
"A.J.'s definitely an elite receiver. He's like Cromartie where he's big and goes up and gets it. He works real hard during the week. Cromartie's the same way. They're both consummate pros that work at their craft. I'm looking forward to seeing it."
McElroy may be a secret weapon Sunday. He's regarded as one of the smartest players in the NFL and three years ago The Sporting News ranked him the 20th-smartest athlete. He reportedly had a 43 out of 50 on the infamous Wonderlic test at the 2011 scouting combine and got his business marketing degree in three years with a 3.85 GPA.
So can we assume that McElroy has had some talks with Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer about the guts of the Jets offense? Remember, now. The guy's smart, so he's not going to exactly tip anyone's hand.
"Coach Zimmer and the defensive staff do a great job every week. If they ever had a question, of course I'd be willing to help in any way I can," McElroy said adroitly.
This could be the Bengals revenge. Ryan began his streak against the Bengals in the 2008 opener, when former Bengals wide receivers coach Hue Jackson and former Bengals right tackle Willie Anderson were in Baltimore and may have helped the Ravens game plan just a tad with some inside knowledge.