Jacoby: “Trying to be one of the best receivers in the league.”

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Ravens wide receiver Jacoby Jones was a small-school product from Division II Lane College.  His athletic abilities were heralded upon entering the NFL, and stories abound of Jones being summoned by Denzel Washington when Lane faced Morehouse (where Washington’s son played) so he could tell the receiver, “Son, I expect to see you on Sunday.” (Ironically, Nick Saban told him the opposite, citing his size as the reason despite his apparent athletic prowess.)

So when the Texans (and Gary Kubiak) drafted Jones in the third round in 2007, it was with expectations of a dynamic pairing.  What do you get when you put Andre Johnson across from a 6-foot-4, dynamic athlete?  Conceivably, you get an unstoppable tandem.

What materialized was instead a somewhat frustrating project.  Jones would flash his unquestionable natural talent, only to commit an inexcusable blunder on the following play.  Finally, once Jones fumbled against the Ravens in the 2012 Divisional round, the Texans had seen enough.

Except, Jones wasn’t done.

The following season he vaulted into the spotlight as the Ravens made an unprecedented run to the Super Bowl behind Joe Flacco and the Ravens receiving core.  Jacoby Jones had some of the most memorable plays of the entire postseason for Baltimore, and many believe that it was Jones, not Flacco, who deserved Super Bowl MVP honors.

After an offseason spent dancing, Brynden Trawick collided with Jacoby Jones on a Ravens punt return and he was forced to miss significant action due to a knee injury.  In his shortened season, he and Flacco showed moments that were reminiscent of their previous highlights.  Though mostly, it was the same: a deep threat.

All along the road for Jacoby Jones in the NFL, he’s been called a one trick pony.  At a dynamic 6-foot-4, Jones makes for one heck of a target deep down the field.  But with the slight frame that caused Nick Saban to tell him he’d never play professionally, Jones has indeed shied away from contact and been reticent to make the tough catches over the middle.  Yes, defenses must always respect his ability to stretch the field, but the reason Jacoby Jones was cut by Houston and now serves the role of third receiver for the Ravens is because he hasn’t displayed the ability to execute every route and consistently make the tough catch.

So when Jones says he is “trying to be one of the best receivers in the league,” at first glance, it is somewhat humorous.  However, something about Jacoby Jones’ potential dominance makes one wonder when hearing stories about the effect of a coordinator’s hire, or the influence a free agent signing.

Jacoby Jones has referred to Gary Kubiak as his biological father.  Suffice to say, the two are close, and that means that when Gary Kubiak is leading an offense, Jacoby Jones is comfortable.  This bodes well for the receiving core in that Jones is already familiar with his scheme (not to mention Kubiak’s positive influence on Jones’ off-the-field behavior — like Sweet Pea).

But perhaps the most important addition to the offense and receiving core is Steve Smith Sr.

Many question how a receiver Smith’s size could accrue such an impressively physical highlight reel.  However, his success is no accident.  Smith fights for the football better than maybe any other receiver, and his ability to come back to the football and close the gap to the ball in the air is nearly unrivaled.

There are plenty of times where Ravens receivers would sit on their heels as the ball flew through the air.  Joe Flacco obviously has a strong arm, however when the receiver is stagnant, the cornerback can make a more aggressive break on the ball and create a more favorable angle to deflect or disrupt the pass. The best receivers are the ones who can subtly angle their bodies to box out defenders.

There have been reports in training camp that Jacoby Jones is coming back to the football and attacking.  If he has in fact added this facet to his game, it goes a long way towards adding credence to his goal.

Obviously it won’t matter until he shows it consistently with pads on, but Jacoby’s athleticism forces cornerbacks to give him space.  If he is creating even more space by attacking the ball in the air, it bodes very well for Joe Flacco and the Ravens, because we all know what Jones can do in the open field.

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