Detroit Lions: Marvin Jones looking for first big performance of the year

(Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
(Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images) /

The Detroit Lions have started the 2020 season with a somewhat disappointing 1-2 record. They have done so without getting a huge performance from one of their top targets: Marvin Jones.

Marvin Jones has had an uncharacteristically slow start for the Detroit Lions this year. Through the first three games, Jones was targeted 17 times, which he has turned into 129 yards and one score. That may sound like a lot–he is second on the team in both categories, after all–but he has usually submitted one big outing by now.

To put into context, he has been targeted more, caught more yards, and scored more touchdowns in three of his other four years with Matthew Stafford. He is still catching 64% of passes, so it’s not as if Stafford or Darrell Bevell do not trust him. It has just been a slower start than usual.

It seems slow because Jones has yet to have that first game where he truly breaks out, and he usually does in the first few weeks of the season. In 2016, he caught 205 yards and two touchdowns in Week 3 against the Packers.

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Last year, he lit up the Eagles for 101 yards. Even in 2017, his slowest start before now, he recorded a 27-yard touchdown.

By comparison, this season has not been bad for Jones; it has just been quiet.

Jones has typically been used as one of the Lions’ deeper threats.

This has not been the case this season, which is perhaps even more troubling. His longest reception is 21 yards, his lowest as a Lion.

His yards before catch is only 8.2 per reception, meaning, on average, he has not been targeted deep downfield.

Of course, this is a bit of an overreaction through only three games, but it could be indicative of a scheme or personnel change if the trend continues.

In truth, part of this slow start can be attributed to the fact the Lions have a solid receiving corps already, so targets are more spread around. T.J. Hockenson is proving himself as a household name at tight end and already has 171 yards.

Danny Amendola has seen the most targets, although not as many have translated into catches. Rookie D’Andre Swift is filling that receiving back position Theo Riddick used to serve, and fellow rookie, 5th-rounder, Quintez Cephus, has been a pleasant surprise with one start and a few nice catches.

Cephus will likely see less time now, though, with Kenny Golladay back from the injured list. Golladay picked up right where he left off his 2019 Pro Bowl season with 57 yards and a score. The point is, Stafford has many options, including Jones.

Even with all of these producers, the Lions still rank among the lower third of the league in terms of passing offensive efficiency by DVOA. Of course, Football Outsiders’ DVOA uses existing play in its model to determine rankings, so it will only get more accurate and valuable later in the season. This week’s game, though, will be an excellent opportunity to improve.

The Saints have a poor pass defense (also in the bottom third of pass defense DVOA), and they are without their top two cornerbacks, Marshon Lattimore and Janoris Jenkins. Expect Stafford, Jones, and the rest of the receivers to take advantage of this.

It is still way too early to worry about Marvin Jones. The aforementioned slow start of 2017? He wounded up with nine touchdowns and the most receiving yards of his career (1101). Without a preseason, too, he and the rest of the team are still tuning up.

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Whether it is this weekend or a month from now, Jones will return to form, and the Detroit Lions will be better for it.