Detroit — The fade route in the red zone — it’s a play the Detroit Lions practice all the time, and one receiver Marvin Jones executes as well as anyone on the roster.
In Saturday’s 16-6 victory over the Jets, quarterback Matthew Stafford delivered a well-placed ball from the 5-yard line into the back corner of the end zone. From there, Jones did what he does best — get the necessary separation to make the grab.
“He does a nice job with body control, man,” Stafford said. “His body control is pretty outrageous. By the sidelines, he’s always got a knack for finding a way to get that last, little foot in or whatever it is. He did it again tonight with the fade.”
The 5-yard score, early in the second quarter, capped an 11-play, 78-yard scoring drive on which Stafford connected with Jones four times. But things didn’t start as smoothly as they finished.
For the second consecutive week, Stafford looked to Jones on a quick slant, but both throws were slightly off target, with each bouncing off the receiver’s hands. Last week, in the preseason opener against the Indianapolis Colts, the deflection was intercepted. Against the Jets, it fell harmlessly to the ground, giving the tandem a second chance to get on the same page.
The chemistry is still developing in the pair’s second year together. Stafford said Jones is doing a better job communicating with his body language this year and coach Jim Caldwell praised the receiver’s ever-improving technique.
“I think that one of the things that you’ll notice about him is he’s, to me when I look at him and watch him practice, he’s better than he was a year ago,” Caldwell said. “He’s coming out of cuts better. He’s running better routes.”
Jones signed a five-year deal with the Lions as a free agent last year and came out of the gate firing with his new team. After four games, he was leading the NFL in receiving yardage and big plays. But he badly faded down the stretch, hampered by multiple minor leg injuries. He didn’t top 100 yards in a game the final 12 weeks of the season. Even worse, he was held under 50 yards seven times.
Everyone is hoping for a little more consistency the second time around.
The red-zone fade could be a key to that success. A tremendously difficult play to execute, Stafford and Jones appear to have it down pat.
“You know, down there, you’re a little bit limited in where you can go and what you can do,” Stafford said. “The idea is to get really good at a few things and that’s one that everyone in the league wants to be really good at. We are no different. We do everything we can to try and complete those at a high rate and obviously was a good one tonight.”