After an offseason of scrutiny at his position, Jacoby Jones will start the season as the No. 2 wide receiver on the depth chart.
With all the attention diverted to the new guys the Ravens added to the mix during training camp and the competition for the final couple of roster spots, Jones has been kind of overlooked this summer.
That will all change Thursday night when the first football is snapped to quarterback Joe Flacco. The pressure will be back on Jones to produce like a starting wide receiver, something he hasn’t been in a couple of seasons.
The Houston Texans groomed Jones to be the starting wide receiver opposite of perennial Pro Bowler Andre Johnson, but Jones never met their expectations when he got his chance. In his final two seasons in Houston, Jones started 17 games and played in 31, catching 82 passes for 1,074 receiving yards and five touchdowns.
Now in his second season here in Baltimore, Jones is getting another chance to prove that he is capable of being a starter in the league. But he downplayed his big opportunity this week.
“I just play my role,” Jones said. “Whatever they want me to do, I’m going to do it. If I wasn’t a starter, I’d still try to step out there and make a play when it was time to make a play.”
That’s exactly what Jones did last year in limited snaps as the No. 3 receiver, helping the Ravens become champions with long touchdown grabs against the Denver Broncos in the AFC divisional round and San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl.
But now he will be more of an every-down player, and he will be expected to produce week in and week out. Flacco will rely on him to do more than stretch the secondary. Jones will have to make clutch catches underneath the coverage to move the chains and might have to take some shots over the middle, two things that his predecessor, Anquan Boldin, relished.
“I do think he has the ability,” offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell said of his new No. 2 receiver in June. “There’s no question about that. He has the ability to do it. He can catch. He can run. Obviously, he is still going to serve our special teams and serve them well in his role that he plays for them. But then obviously, we will use him, certainly, as a big part of our offense as well.”
If Jones, who doesn’t mind being in the spotlight, is feeling the pressure heading into Thursday’s season opener, he certainly isn’t showing it. Whatever his role is, he is confident the Ravens offense will pick up where it left off last postseason.
“It’s all about clicking,” Jones said. “Right now, everybody is clicking together. The timing feels good and we had a hell of a week, so hopefully everything clicks on Thursday night.”