Bengals’ Adam Jones: Free to Return


Dec 22, 2014; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Adam Jones (24) returns a kick off during the third quarter against the Denver Broncos at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

When the Cincinnati Bengals take the field in 2015 they’ll need to find ways to improve in all aspects of the game.  The offense needs to lean on a potent running game that will open up the field when throwing the ball.  They’ll need to improve their defensive output after finishing an abysmal 22nd overall last year, and they’ll need to finish a way to replicate their 2014 performance on special teams, as the unit finished amongst the league’s best.  One dynamic that will be vital towards attaining some of these goals in the coming year will be the one amongst the team’s cornerbacks, specifically between Darqueze Dennard and Adam Jones.

May 26, 2015; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Darqueze Dennard (21) during OTAs at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Adam Jones has been a steady, reliable presence in the secondary for the last five years.  He’s offered a viable third cornerback option complementing the starting duo of Leon Hall and former Bengal Terence Newman.  His play not only helped the secondary burgeon over the past few seasons and allowed Dre Kirkpatrick to develop slowly and deal with some early career injury issues.  Jones has been great for the secondary and the defense as a whole.

This year, the secondary may look a little different due to Terence Newman’s exit from the Queen City and what is beginning to look like Darqueze Dennard’s emergence.  Dennard was last year’s first round selection.  Being selected at 24, Dennard was considered to be a steal and his progression across his rookie and now sophomore season has justified this billing.

After being labeled as a fast learner and “the best rookie cornerMarvin Lewis has seen, defensive coordinator Paul Guenther made it clear he expected Dennard to “compete” this year.  Lewis has expressed wanting to see more of Dennard this year after seeing him produce at a high level on special teams last year.

So how does Dennard’s potential emergence affect Adam Jones? If Dennard is able to take over Jones’ third cornerback role on defense it will allow Jones to move to the fourth cornerback slot while focusing more of his attention on being the team’s primary special teams returner.

Allowing Adam Jones to focus primarily on this role would be great for the Bengals.  Last year Jones proved to be amongst the league’s elite return men.  Jones made it clear in 2014 that he felt he is a better returner than future Hall of Fame returner Devin Hester.  Although Jones doesn’t have the career numbers to justify that statement, he certainly proved that when given opportunities he is able to be just as effective.

Adam Jones earned All-Pro honors last year by posting the league’s third best punt return average of 11.9 yards/return (the best being 13 yards/return) and the league’s best kick return average (31.3 yards/return).  Jones also had returns of 97 yards (kick) and 47 yards (punt), though he wasn’t able to finish any in the end zone.

Getting a second-year player like Darqueze Dennard on the field in 2015 could improve the defense immediately and will likely improve it over the long haul, as Jones is heading into the later stage of his career.  Meanwhile, freeing Adam Jones from his defensive responsibilities and instead allowing him to act as the Bengals’ primary returner gives Cincinnati a weapon they’ve lacked for years, a returning threat that will scare opponents.

Next: Defining Dalton