ATLANTA — Fifth-rounder Marvin Jones has gone from the bubble to a sure roster spot as the sixth wide receiver who wouldn't dress on Sundays to how the heck do you keep him off the field on Sunday, Monday or Thursday?
For the second time in as many games, Jones got behind the coverage to ring up a 40-plus-yard catch, this one a 42-yarder from Zac Robinson, and added a 16-yard dash out of the backfield in Thursday night's 24-19 victory over the Falcons at the Georgia Dome.
Remember when the Bengals were fretting they had nice, competent receivers opposite A.J. Green but no one with take-the-top-off-a-defense speed? In the 6-2 Jones they may have something like that.
"Marvin's a big kid and he can run," said backup quarterback Bruce Gradkowski, who hit him for a 45-yarder in the opener. "He's a big physical guy. He runs good routes and he'll go up and get the football if you throw it to him. You love to see the hunger like that and all our receivers have it. They want the football and they'll go up and make plays. It's fun to see that and as quarterbacks we have confidence in those guys."
Jones had trouble early judging the long ball in practice, but he's been improving pretty much every day he's gone out there from the second week on.
"I'm very comfortable out there and that's the result," Jones said. "If the ball is in the air, I'm going to come down and get it. That's what I pride myself on; just being a complete receiver, whether it's short to intermediate, have the ability to make those plays and be explosive."
The two receivers that caught 40-plus-yard balls besides Green last season are no longer here. Jerome Simpson had three and Andre Caldwell one, and Jones has done half of that in his first two games, although not against first-teamers.
MORE RECEIVERS: Head coach Marvin Lewis praised the receiver group after Thursday's game and with good reason. They did a little bit of everything. Green and Jones went long. Brandon Tate broke one off to make a third-down catch against the blitz. Third-rounder Mohamed Sanu became the first of the rookies to score when he caught a 12-yard touchdown pass from Gradkowski.
That's what the Bengals hope to get from the 6-3 Sanu. He ran a good enough route in tight that he was virtually wide open.
And Andrew Hawkins made one of those special plays on special teams. The 5-7, 180-pound Hawkins blew up 252-pound fullback Mike Cox on the way to making a tackle on a kickoff inside the 15. The two, it turns out, have a history.
"In high school; he put me on my back. Mike Cox. I remember it like it was yesterday," Hawkins said. "I wasn't going to let that happen again."
SLANTS AND SCREENS
» Bengals center Kyle Cook was relatively pleased with how the first offensive line played. He couldn't remember a sack because the one the Bengals gave up Andy Dalton didn't lose any yards on their first snap of the game to defensive tackle Jerry Peria that looked to be a coverage sack. Cook thought the tackles played well, given they were going against stalwarts John Abraham and Cincinnati product Ray Edwards.
The first line played the entire first half and Cook realizes the Bengals have to run the ball better (they had 11 yards on just 10 carries). He's hoping they can come out of the locker room and play some of the second half next Thursday at home against the Packers (7 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 12).
» Safety Taylor Mays plans to sit down with head coach Marvin Lewis and defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer and discus his penchant for knocking out his own players. On Thursday night rookie middle linebacker Vontaze Burfict had to leave the game when Mays plowed into his head after Burfict tracked down tight end Michael Palmer following a wide-open 20-yard catch. On Friday night, Mays was in on the play where middle linebacker Rey Maualuga sprained his knee.
"I'm just trying to get to the ball and set the tempo throughout the game," Mays said. "It's just me being physical, but I have to be more conscious about whom I'm hitting. I'm going to ask the coaches to see what they think about it and go from there. I definitely want to be aggressive and set the tempo, but at the same time I don't want to do anything stupid."
» Dalton had a good question. When was the last time the two leading Bengals rushers were quarterbacks? Gradkowski led both teams with what would have been the longest scramble of his career if it had been a real game on a 31-yarder. Robinson rushed twice for 18 yards and Marvin Jones was third with that 16-yarder. A back didn't show up until fourth with Brian Leonard's 13 yards on six carries.
"It parted like the Red Sea," Gradkowski said.