While more attention and praise was given to the Cincinnati Bengals for their ability to re-sign Pro Bowl offensive tackle Andre Smith and franchise tag double-digit sack-man Michael Johnson this offseason, the biggest signing was arguably made when the team agreed to a new 3-year deal with cornerback/return-man Adam Jones.
In 2012 while logging 626 defensive snaps, he held opposing receivers to just one reception for every 6.3 targets that came his way, and one every 11.5 coverage snaps he played. Those numbers put him in the top 25 in each category among qualifying corners in the NFL.
Pro Football Focus graded his cumulative coverage grade at +10.6, which ranked sixth among all cornerbacks in the NFL last season.
Now, PFF is conducting its “Secret Superstars” series, and their latest addition is none other than Adam Jones:
Things turned for the better for Jones and the Bengals as their season turned for home over the second half of the season. In the Bengals’ Week 10 game at home against the Giants, Jones was targeted a season-high 10 times. He gave up only six completions at fewer than 10 yards per completion (53), with only five of those yards coming after the catch. In that game, Jones also got his hands on half as many passes as the receivers he was covering, coming up with three pass defenses.
Jones’ 2012 season was a story of real success grading among our top ten corners in terms of coverage grade (+9.9, including playoffs). He rated highly in terms of coverage metrics (Top 20 in yards per coverage snap, 0.97; top 25 in coverage snaps per reception allowed, 11.5) and added his first sack since 2006 in a game against the Chiefs in Week 11. If you want consistency in a sub-package corner, Jones provided precisely that. He graded below -1.0 in coverage only once all season in the Bengals’ home loss to the Steelers in Week 7.
Jones has quietly become one of the best nickel-corners in the game, and going against the likes of Ben Roethlisberger and Joe Flacco twice, along with Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Andrew Luck in 2013, having a healthy Jones will be key into slowing them down enough for the Bengals to win those games.