The Bengals’ defense has made huge strides this year. They’re playing at a level that hasn’t been seen since 2013. That year, the Bengals ended their campaign ranked at No. 3 and seemed to be getting better. But with the departure of Mike Zimmer and injuries to key players, the unit took a tumble last year. But 2015 has been the year of resurgence for the defense. It’s also been the year of comebacks. Adam Jones is playing lights-out and proving he can still be a force on defense.
Jones is a 32-year-old physical specimen of the fountain of youth. It seems as though he’s actually gotten faster with age. Jones is able to keep up with elite receivers that should be making toast out of him. Yet he is having a banner year and making his bid for the Pro Bowl.
Adam Jones is a player who walks the walk when he talks it. The ninth year cornerback has had his share of trouble since coming into the league. But since being with the Bengals, those days have quieted down tremendously.
But Jones’ play on the field has been amped up. He’s playing with fire and emotion. His teammates can see it and they appreciate his drive. Defensive end Wallace Gilberry mentioned Jones’ intensity via the Bengals website.
“If there’s a fight at 3 o’clock behind Wal-Mart, Pacman’s a guy that I’m bringing with me. That’s just being honest because I know I can count on him.”
If you talk to the Bengals’ defensive players, you’ll start to get a feeling for who the emotional leaders are. Jones is definitely one of them. He’s tough and smart. His football IQ is phenomenal. He shadows opponents like he knows the route they’re running.
He hasn’t given up a touchdown this season and quarterbacks have a rating of 53.9 throwing at him. Jones is also rated No. 5 at stopping the run at his position. It’s getting to the point where teams aren’t even throwing at him. In the last two games, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw at Jones twice and the Browns’ Manziel just four times. Both completed one pass on Jones.
Even though he has kept his head down – and not brought attention to himself off the field with the Bengals – Jones knows those mistakes of years ago are still what people remember. That is still the case even though Jones is really starting to shine in a talented defensive backfield for the Bengals.
Per ESPN, co-defensive backs coach Vance Joseph talked about the focus and grind that has made Adam Jones different this year. He has become a mental player along with having the physical attributes.
“He’s playing with his brain and that’s key,” Joseph said. “Obviously he’s got great physical skills. He’s still quick, he can run, he’s got ball skills and he’s tough as h***. But he’s playing with his brain, and that’s half the battle. His focus is really, really high right now, man…. It’s a different level.”
That’s what it takes to be a cornerback in the NFL. The ability to rise to another level – and sustain that intensity over the entire season – is mandatory.
Since joining the Bengals in 2010, Jones’ level of play has gotten better each year. Defensive end Carlos Dunlap has noticed. He’s also noticed that the way Jones prepares for games has helped improve his results on the field.
“Just hearing how him and Leon and those guys talk about situations. They talk about it before they even run the play. They know what they’re going to get when they get it,” Dunlap said. “Now we’ve got the whole locker room preparing the same way. That’s why we’re in tune.”
Adam Jones has started a trend that has the Bengals’ defense gelling. He’s up for free agency next year. Mike Brown may want to make sure he doesn’t get away.
[Feature Photo by Ezra Shaw / Getty Images]