Jan 5, 2014; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Marvin Jones (82) makes a catch during second quarter of the AFC wild card playoff football game against the San Diego Chargers at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
As of today, the Bengals officially put wide receiver Marvin Jones on the Injured Reserve List.
While it’s disappointing that Marvin Jones won’t be contributing this year, it’s not as big of a hit to the team as some might think.
It’s not that Marvin Jones isn’t a great player, who wouldn’t love to have him out there? But the truth is the Bengals’ offense is still loaded with weapons, especially the receiving game. Hue Jackson has done a great job coordinating this offense while absorbing numerous injuries. The Bengals currently rank eighth in passing and 11th in rushing league-wide. They haven’t struggled to put points on the board scoring just under 27 points/game; good for ninth in the league. The fact that the Bengals have been able to accomplish all this while missing Jones and several other players is a testament to the offense’s depth.
Going forward, the Bengals season will be decided by how the defense plays. It’s a foreign actuality for Bengals fans who’ve become accustomed to enjoying a top-tier defense. But this year hasn’t been the typical year.
While the offense flourishes, it’s the defense that has struggled to carry its weight. Currently, the Bengals’ defense ranks 28th in the league for yards/game (398.8) and 14th in points (22.6). The defense ranks 22nd against the pass and 28th against the rush. None of these numbers reflect a defense that finished third in the league last year (and first in the AFC).
Although there are certainly several players who need to perform better, defensive coordinator Paul Guenther must own this disappointing performance more than anyone. As the head of the defense, it’s Guenther who must lead this defense back to its dominant form. It may only be his first year as a coordinator, but Guenther has inherited a very favorable situation while having been long prepared for his new role.
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Guenther has been an assistant with the Bengals since 2005. He coached alongside defensive guru Mike Zimmer since 2008 and, most recently, was the defense’s linebackers coach. This means he’s had a significant influence on the development of the Bengals’ current linebacker group, most notably Vontaze Burfict, and is well acquainted with the defense as a whole. He’s also had more than enough time to both acquaint himself with and influence the defense’s game plan.
Without Marvin Jones, the Bengals’ future still looks bright. As much as it’ll be exciting when he returns in 2015, the offense is fine without him. Now, it’s time for the defense to pull it’s weight and get this team back on track. The knowledge and talent is there. The onus falls with Guenther now.