- Coley Harvey, ESPN Staff Writer
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But he's human. As hard as he tries to fight them, he cannot fully escape remembering how frustrated and confused he was in those moments. As other players kept getting taken ahead of him, all he could do was watch his television and phone and wait. Once projected a second-round pick, he went much lower. He slipped and slipped and slipped.
He fell all the way to the fifth round.
"Every once in a while, when I do think of it, it does get me a little edgy," Jones admitted earlier this week.
All this season, the second-year Bengals wideout has been playing with more of an edge than some draft experts and team scouts believed he could showcase at this level. When they were evaluating him, they all saw a player out of Cal with good upside and promise, but one who had physical holes that they didn't really think could be filled.
Holes, like the ones listed on his 2012 CBS Sports scouting report: "[Jones] will have limitations against physical cornerbacks because of his thin frame. If locked at the line, he lacks the upper-body strength to fight off the press with his hands. His vertical speed is not outstanding, and he will rarely make explosive plays after the catch. Questionable home-run speed."
In one game, Jones negated many of those claims when he caught three passes for 71 yards and a touchdown in Cincinnati's 27-24 overtime win at Buffalo. Not only did he get off the line of scrimmage fairly well throughout the contest, but he also showcased grand slam speed on a pair of early chunk plays. On the first drive of the game, he took a flipped pitch from running back Giovani Bernard and ran 34 yards for a first down on an end around. One drive later, he caught a screen pass and sprinted downfield for a 42-yard first-down gain.
"He's really helping us out," fellow Bengals receiver A.J. Green said. "He's that gunner, that vice. We put him in where he can do the job to the best of his ability."
Across the last two weeks in particular, Jones has really begun making a name for himself in what has quickly turned into a truly versatile, multi-threat offense. The days of pass-to-A.J.-Green-or-bust are long gone.
If numbers continue to trend the direction they are going, the Bengals are projected to have six players finish the regular season with at least 500 receiving yards. Jones likely would be No. 6. Currently, his 190 yards rounds out the team's top receivers. That could change, though, if his role in the offense grows. There are good reasons some have been calling for more opportunities for him.
While Jones only had 39 yards receiving on two catches during Cincinnati's Week 5 win over the Patriots, it was the timeliness of one of the receptions that helped convince the last few lingering doubters that he really could be an adequate sidekick on the Green Show.
The play came when the Bengals, leading 6-3 in the final minute of the third quarter, faced a third-and-15 from their own 2. In desperate need of a first down, Cincinnati sent three receivers, including Jones, downfield on vertical routes. Quarterback Andy Dalton decided to go toward Jones, placing the ball between a corner and safety in a spot that caused Jones to leap up, catch it and sprint past the first-down marker. It was arguably the key play in a 93-yard drive that ended in a BenJarvus Green-Ellis touchdown run.
Cincinnati would win, 13-6.
"He's tough and works his tail off, and whether he's blocking or running the ball or running the routes, he's improving every week," offensive coordinator Jay Gruden said.
Green attributes Jones' discipline and style of play to the part of the country where he was reared.
"He plays with a chip on his shoulder," Green said of the Fontana, Calif. native. "He's from Cal and Cali guys have a chip on their shoulder."
Jones himself thinks it comes from somewhere else.
"As a football player, you always feel like you have something to prove," Jones said. "I want to be a great receiver. Even going back to the draft, you think of stuff like that. You always feel like you have something to prove. But I'm very self motivated and I just want to be the best I can be every time I touch the field. So it's more of me pushing myself above the limits and trying to strive to be great."
22hOhm Youngmisuk and Rich Cimini