What Happened to Marvin Jones Jr. in 2016?
Is it possible that Marvin Jones Jr., wide receiver for the Detroit Lions, has a side gig as a magician? I only ask because he did one of the best disappearing acts I’ve ever seen this past season.
Jones signed a five-year, $40-million deal with Detroit in March 2016. The Lions desperately needed a wide receiver after the retirement of Calvin Johnson and Jones was able to cash in as one of the top available receivers in a free agency class lacking top-tier talent at the position.
Personally, I thought they overpaid for Jones and did not like the amount of money Detroit gave him. But then the former California Bear had me eating my words after the first four weeks of the season.
Jones led the league in receiving yards after three games with 408 yards, and accumulated 482 yards after four weeks (which ranked second). However, in the following 11 weeks combined, Jones registered just 448 yards.
He did not reach the 100-yard mark once in that time frame, either. For those counting along at home, he was averaging 120.5 yards per game in the first quarter of the season. His average dropped to an abysmal 44.8 yards per game for the remainder of the campaign (he played in 10 of the 11 games).
He also only caught five passes or more just one time in that stretch – after doing so three times in the first four contests. Seriously, he should call up former Green Bay Packers quarterback, Don Majkowski, and ask if he can use the “Majik (or in this case, just Magic) Man” moniker.
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So what gives? Did defenses make the necessary adjustments for the remainder of the season? Was Jones targeted less? After looking at Jones’ game logs and tallying up his total targets, using Yahoo! Sports as my source, Jones was targeted 36 times in the first four weeks and 67 times in the next 10 games he played in. That is an average of nine targets per game in the first quarter of the season versus 6.7 targets for the rest of the campaign.
So it looks like his targets did drop off – but keeping a pace of nine targets per game was not a likely goal. Of those initial 36 targets, Jones hauled in 23 balls. That is nearly an incredible 64 percent completion rate. He only caught 32 of his next 67 targets, which is less than half.
It is easy to hypothesize that defenses started paying more attention to Jones after his four-week outburst. Perhaps he was double-covered more or was specifically game-planned against by defensive coordinators. That could also explain why Golden Tate III had the opposite scenario this season (slow start, strong finish). But I don’t have any metrics to back up those claims, so I will not make any assumptions.
I would also like to see Jones find the end zone more often going forward. He only scored four touchdowns for Detroit in 2016 – and all of those came within the first six games. He scored his career-high 10 touchdowns for the Cincinnati Bengals in 2013, so he definitely has it in him. While Jones certainly made plays for the Lions this season, the team needs him to make even more big plays and find the end zone more often.
The bottom line is Marvin Jones is making too much money to only show up four weeks per year. He’s already showed us that he can be Matthew Stafford’s most reliable target, now he needs to do it on a more consistent basis. We don’t want to see any disappearing acts in 2017.
Disclaimer: I am certainly no math major, so feel free to call me on any mistakes in my calculations in the comment section below.
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