Marvin Jones isn’t in a slump exactly, not with at least 50 receiving yards in each of the Detroit Lions’ first four games.
But with Jones still waiting for his breakout game of 2018, one to match what his wide receiver cohorts Golden Tate and Kenny Golladay have done so far this year, he might be stepping into the perfect situation Sunday — a game against the Green Bay Packers.
Jones has dominated the Packers during his two-plus seasons in Detroit.
In four games against the Packers as a Lion, Jones has 17 catches for 469 yards and five touchdowns. Since the start of the 2016 season, he has averaged 117.3 receiving yards a game receiving against Green Bay, and 57.9 yards a game against everyone else.
“I’m not going to sit here and say there’s a secret, like Marvin’s Magic Stuff or something,” Jones said Wednesday. “It’s just me playing the game. Just, I have had some good games against them. It’s my job to keep it that way.”
Jones, the Lions’ top deep threat, had the best receiving game of his career against the Packers in Week 3 of the 2016 season, when he caught six passes for 205 yards and two touchdowns.
He torched Josh Hawkins for a 73-yard touchdown at the end of the first half, beating him cleanly off the line of scrimmage then stiff-arming Hawkins to the ground as he sprinted to the end zone, and he added a 35-yard touchdown catch over a stumbling Damarious Randall in the fourth quarter.
Jones had a comparatively modest five catches for 76 yards in his second game against the Packers that season, then erupted for two more big games last year.
He went for seven catches, 107 yards and two touchdowns in a Week 9 Lions victory at Lambeau Field, then followed up with four catches for 81 yards and a touchdown in the season finale, another Lions win.
“There’s really not some secret,” Jones said. “I just go out there and try to make all the plays that come to me. And that’s how I’ve always been, so it’s nothing different.”
Jones will find a few things different about the Packers on Sunday.
Gone are cornerbacks Hawkins, Randall and Davon House, who Jones beat (along with Hawkins and Randall again) for a touchdown last year, and so, too, is long-time Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers.
Jones said there wasn’t anything unique about playing against a Capers defense that led to his success, and even if there was, he excelled as a Cincinnati Bengal against new coordinator Mike Pettine’s defenses when Pettine was Cleveland Browns head coach in 2015.
Jones, who played as the Bengals’ No. 2 receiver behind A.J. Green that year, had 10 catches for 133 yards and one touchdown in two games against Pettine’s Browns.
“I think whatever their go-to is, whatever their defense is, I think that’s what they’re going to call,” Jones said. “I’ve obviously played against his defenses, me being in Cincy and kind of the Rex Ryan, that tree. So obviously I’ve played, have some experience playing against this defense, but at the same time, it’s a new week. They’re doing their things, we’re over here doing our things, so however they play, that’s just how they’re going to do it.”
The Packers revamped their secondary this offseason, drafting young cornerbacks Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson with their first two picks and re-signing veteran Tramon Williams.
That group has played well so far — the Packers rank seventh in the NFL in pass defense — but they’ll have their hands full Sunday with a deep Lions receiving corps that also includes Tate and Golladay.
Tate leads the Lions with 28 catches, 389 yards and three touchdowns, and is coming off a monster eight-catch, 132-yard game in last week’s loss to the Dallas Cowboys. Golladay had 114 yards receiving in the opener, and has touchdowns two of the last three weeks.
Jones, who ranks second in the NFL behind DeAndre Hopkins with 11 straight games of at least 50 yards receiving, is still finding his rhythm with quarterback Matthew Stafford in the deep passing game, and history says that they could click this week.
“I’m not going to come out here and say I’m waiting for my 100-plus, 200-yard game,” Jones said. “It’s a long season and all I can control is my opportunity, and that’s all I’ve ever did is just try to capitalize on that.”
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