Jacoby Jones Doesn’t Need To Be Liked To Be Good

Jacoby Jones is not the most popular man in Pittsburgh right now. In fact, after two games spent on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ roster, he is probably very near the top of the list of people that the city would like to see leave town.

It’s bad enough, of course, that he is a former Baltimore Raven; he simply has not been doing the job that he was brought here to do. At all.

Even with respect to the fact that the Steelers’ return unit as a whole has not been particularly good this season, which I pointed out in his debut performance, he has averaged just 20.8 yards on four kick returns, and has bobbled multiple. He also muffed a punt on a fair catch attempt that he only barely recovered for himself.

And yet I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. At least, for now. While I would not be shocked to learn of his release between now and the conclusion of the Steelers’ off week next week, I think it makes more sense at this point to just give him the opportunity to get his head straight and settled.

Jones, a ninth-year veteran, is in a unique circumstance in his life. He spent the first five years of his career in Houston after being drafted by them as a mid-round pick, and he found marginal success as the third receiver, while showing himself to be a dangerous return man.

He spent the next three seasons with the Ravens, where he recorded five return touchdowns over that period. He was not re-signed during the offseason, in part due to the fact that he fumbled three times on punts and once on a kickoff last year.

He signed a nice contract for himself in San Diego, but was released after playing in just five games, missing a couple due to an ankle injury.  He proved to be largely ineffective with the Chargers and their typically below average special teams units—it’s worth noting that they are still below average without him.

The Steelers claimed Jones off waivers and stuck him out there just a couple days later with little practice time and no opportunity to yet settle down. He just relocated cross-country and is surely as frustrated with his performance as is anybody else.

But his body of work, both recently and over the length of his career, I think, merits the opportunity to at least see what he looks like after the bye week, especially considering there is no compelling need to add another player to the 53-man roster at the moment.

Even with his below-average total on 13 kick returns this year, Jones’ career average is 27 yards, and that is a number that has seen an upward trajectory averaging over 29 yards over the span of the previous three seasons.

His punt return average for his career is also just shy of 10 yards, a number that has been relatively consistent over the length of his career, during which he has only fair caught not much more than a quarter of his punts.

The concern with Jones has always been his ball security. He has 13 career fumbles on punt returns, a total of 273. But more than half of them came in his first three seasons in the league, so his three fumbles last year was more of an aberration in his recent history. And his one fumble on a kick return last year was the first of his career. He has two career fumbles on offense in 222 touches, none since 2010.

Jones had an awful game in terms of mishandling balls on Sunday, but I think it would be an overreaction to just cut him right now, even in light of his full body of work this season. His resume alone earns him the right to make up for it.

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