Bengals look to improve when Jones returns
CINCINNATI (AP) — The Bengals are in position to get a lot better in the one area where they’re lacking on offense.
Receiver Marvin Jones is close to rejoining the Bengals (3-0) as they get ready to play at New England (2-2) on Sunday night. Jones is one of Cincinnati’s best options close to the goal line, one that they’ve missed a lot.
Even though they’re one of only two unbeaten teams left in the NFL, they’re not without blemishes. They’ve struggled to finish drives during their first three games, sending out Mike Nugent for 11 field goal attempts.
They’ve been missing Jones, who broke his left foot during training camp and had a screw inserted to help the healing. He’s close to rejoining the offense as the Bengals return from their bye week, giving quarterback Andy Dalton a favorite target in the end zone.
Jones was on the field at Paul Brown Stadium on Wednesday in a shirt and shorts, jogging and playing catch on the sideline. He could join practice later in the week, putting him in position to run some plays in Foxborough.
Jones caught 10 touchdown passes last season, nine of them when the Bengals ran plays inside the opponent’s 20-yard line.
“He’s a guy that can really stretch the field,” Dalton said. “Just having another playmaker out there that can do really good stuff for us — it will be fun to have him back.”
The Bengals have scored touchdowns on six of their 10 possessions inside the opponents’ 20-yard line, which ties for 14th in the NFL in red zone TD percentage.
The Bengals drafted Jones in the fifth round in 2012 from California, hoping to add some speed to their group of receivers. He’s become very adept at using his 6-foot-2 frame and his leaping ability in crowded end zones.
“He goes up and makes plays and attacks the ball,” Dalton said. “That’s why he caught so many touchdowns last year.”
Jones had 712 yards receiving last year. He had 130 yards in catching during a playoff loss to San Diego, setting a club record. He also set a club record with four touchdown catches during a 49-9 win over the Jets on Oct. 27.
Jones said it’s important to convert on opportunities in the red zone.
“You just get in the mode,” Jones said. “Everything enhances.”
The offense ranks seventh in the league total yards. Dalton is the league’s 12th-ranked passer with a 95.4 rating. He’s thrown only one interception and has yet to be sacked.
The Bengals are the only unbeaten team in the AFC even though there’s still a lot of room to improve on offense, especially when they get close to the goal line.
“It’s definitely encouraging,” Jones said. “It shows there’s still meat on the bone. When we capitalize on those opportunities and we’re able to get points off that, it’s even better. It’s a great problem to have, I guess.”
Notes: Pro Bowl linebacker Vontaze Burfict didn’t practice on Wednesday. He hasn’t been cleared to return from his second concussion of the season. Burfict sat out a 33-7 win over Tennessee before the bye week. He was on the field in a T-shirt and baseball cap. … Right guard Kevin Zeitler went through drills on the sideline, showing a lot of improvement in his injured right calf. Zeitler was hurt during the second game of the season and sat out the win over Tennessee.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP—NFL