The Cincinnati Bengals‘ wide receiver corps is often perceived as a one-man show. Soon, however, an emerging young pass catcher named Marvin Jones will equip the club with the sport’s best and most productive tandem at the receiver position.
A.J. Green, a former No. 4 overall pick who has lived up to his draft billing and then some during his first three years in Southwest Ohio, has absolutely taken the league by storm. 260 receptions, 3,833 receiving yards and 29 touchdowns in three seasons has catapulted Green into the elite category at the still ripe age of 25.
Excluding the freak that is Calvin Johnson, there might not be a more talented receiver in the entire league than Green, and it’s difficult to pinpoint anyone at the position with a brighter future.
With rare fluidity and body control for a 6-foot-4 receiver, Green routinely abuses opposing cornerbacks with pristine routes, and when he’s unable to create ideal separation or simply isn’t fed an accurate pass, he possesses the athletic ability and hands to pluck the ball with ease at any level of his massive-catch radius.
Thus, it’s easy to see why Green and only Green is often the name that comes to mind when quarterback Andy Dalton‘s weapons at receiver are discussed. Green’s soon-to-be counterpart, Marvin Jones, is well on his way to joining him among some of the NFL‘s most dangerous pass catchers, though.
As a former fifth-round pick, Jones didn’t enter the league with the same eminence and expectations that Green did. Subsequently, when he surfaced as a viable option in Cincinnati’s passing game last fall, it was a surprise to casual fans and those who follow the game intently alike.
His production in 2013, however, headlined by 10 touchdown receptions, is merely the tip of the iceberg. With more opportunities, ideally the full-time No. 2 spot, which is all but his entering training camp, Jones will be impossible to overlook.
What’s particularity impressive about Jones’ output in 2013, beyond it coming from a former late-round draft choice in only his second season, was how he overcame such a limited role.
Mohamed Sanu, a relatively disappointing third-round pick through two seasons, garnered the majority of the Bengals’ No. 2 snaps. In fact, Sanu, despite drastically inferior numbers, accumulated over 200 more snaps than Jones, starting 14 games to Jones’ two.
Jones’ stat line — 51 receptions, 712 yards and 10 touchdowns — was fairly impressive as is. It becomes much more impressive, though, when factoring in his mere 555 offensive snaps and 80 targets. 12 others, either receivers or tight ends, managed double-digit touchdown receptions last season. Of said company, Jones was allotted the fewest snaps, with only Jerricho Cotchery being targeted less. The Bengals’ decision to play Sanu at Jones’ expense was consequently quested. And for good reason.
Fortunately, all indications are the Bengals won’t make the same mistake twice. New offensive coordinator Hue Jackson recently hinted to the club’s website that Jones will be Green’s primary sidekick in 2014, saying “I want A.J. and Marvin and that receiver group to play uncommon football like you’ve never seen.” Jackson later added, “Marvin Jones came on like gangbusters and he’s got to go chase A.J. Why not knock A.J. off the pedestal?”
While knocking Green off any pedestal would be exceedingly ambitious for Jones, it’s quite clear that Jackson sees him as the Bengals’ second-most valuable asset at receiver and that the California product will be given every opportunity to become one of the NFL’s top No. 2s.
Suggesting that Jones, even with development and a larger role, will partner with Green to form the league’s best duo at the receiver position is, without a doubt, going out on a limb. The Chicago Bears‘ tandem of Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery will be tough to top, as will the Atlanta Falcons‘ Julio Jones and Roddy White. But both receivers in Cincinnati’s pair have youth on their side.
Still in their mid-20s, Green and Jones have a chance to dominate together for a long, long time. A lot will depend on Jones’ continued development, as well as Andy Dalton’s ability to establish himself as a more consistent passer. Nevertheless, the potential is there for Green and Jones to comprise the league’s best one-two punch.
Cody Strahm is an NFL Senior Writer for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter.