J. Jones on the fast track

J. Jones on the fast track
November 12, 2012, 3:45 am
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Had he never even set foot on the kickoff return team this season, Jacoby Jones would have already represented an upgrade at No. 3 wide receiver for the Ravens. The fact that Jones on Sunday recorded his franchise-record second kickoff return touchdown of the season only underscores what a major upgrade it was.

At this time last year, the de facto No. 3 receiver, Lee Evans, was suffering through an injury-marred season. Truth be told, Evans was never expected to be the No. 3 receiver. But once he missed much of the first half of the season with an ankle injury, Torrey Smith emerged alongside Anquan Boldin.

Through nine games last season, Evans had a total of two receptions and had missed seven of the first nine games with the injury. Evans' one season in Baltimore ended ingloriously, with just four regular-season catches and one well-known pass that went in and out of his hands in the closing seconds of the AFC Championship Game at New England.

Enter Jones, the six-year veteran who was signed in May to both address the glaring weakness at No. 3 receiver -- no Ravens wideout other than Boldin and Smith caught more than four passes all season -- and to help on the return unit. Last year's No. 1 returner, David Reed, has been sidelined all season after knee surgery last winter, and the thinking was Jones could take some of return duties from starting corner Lardarius Webb.

With his fly-by-you speed, Jones has succeeded on both counts. His kickoff return numbers  -- an average of 38.6 yards per return and two touchdowns since taking over the job from rookie Deonte Thompson four games ago -- leads the league.

Last week, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron acknowledged that Jones' work on the kick return team might have cut into his offense, but Cameron said of Jones, "I think you'll see him out there (on offense) more."

Against the Raiders, Jones indeed re-emerged as a receiver, hauling in a 47-yard bomb on a fly pattern as well as another 7-yard reception. He had no catches the week before against Cleveland. For the season, Jones has 15 catches for 256 yards. Not Jerry Rice numbers, mind you, but he's a viable No. 3 threat to reckon with, not to mention a danger any time he touches the ball on a return.

"I just play my role," he said after the Raiders game. "Whenever they say, '12, or Jacoby, or .. JJ, get in there,' I'm getting in there."