Jacoby Jones dancing back onto field facing higher expectations


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OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Wrapping up his first week back with the Ravens since a third-place finish on “Dancing with the Stars,” wide receiver Jacoby Jones made it clear he’s no longer in a mood to dance.
At least until this fall.
Asked whether teammates have teased him since he returned from pairing up with the lovely Karina Smirnoff, Jones indicated his teammates were jealous of the skills he displayed on national television. Of course, Jones is ready to focus once again on the skills that made him a first-time Pro Bowl selection 2012 and doesn’t plan to share his dancing secrets with teammates.
“They’re all just trying to get me to teach them how to dance now,” Jones said. “I’m not about to teach. I’m tired of dancing.”
Looking leaner than last year but still claiming to be at his playing weight of 215 pounds, Jones said the biggest adjustment in returning to the Ravens is getting used to high outdoor temperatures compared to the air-conditioned confines of the dance studio. Jones feels his footwork for running routes is better than ever after learning a variety of new steps on the dance floor.
The sleek and speedy receiver got behind third-year cornerback Jimmy Smith for a long touchdown on Friday afternoon for the concluding day of the second week of organized team activities, which are voluntary workouts at this stage of the spring. Jones missed the first week due to his final days on the ABC hit program, but the 28-year-old feels he’s in better condition at this point than he’s ever been in his NFL career.
Upon his return, he finds a very different team from the one he remembered last February, with veteran wide receiver Anquan Boldin the biggest departure to directly impact Jones. However, the New Orleans native offered a pragmatic approach to moving on from the departures of so many veteran players.
“There are guys that are gone [and] we’re going to miss them, but the spirit is the same,” Jones said. “The guys they brought in, we all have the same type of personality, the same spirits. [General manager Ozzie Newsome] knows what he’s doing when he brings those types of guys in.”
How Jones will fit into the Boldin-free passing game is one of the biggest questions the Ravens face as they inch closer to training camp. It’s all but guaranteed that the 6-foot-2 receiver will line up on the opposite side of Torrey Smith in the three-wide set as he did last season, but whether he’ll ultimately start in the two-wide base offense remains to be seen.
His playoff heroics in Denver (a 70-yard touchdown catch to force overtime) and in Super Bowl XLVII (a 56-yard touchdown shortly before halftime) have become part of franchise lore, but Jones was little more than a decoy for most of the regular season as he caught just 30 passes for 406 yards and a Week 2 touchdown while being targeted 54 times in 16 games. Even after Jim Caldwell took over as offensive coordinator in mid-December, Jones only appeared in 41 percent of the Ravens’ offensive plays (not including the regular-season finale in Cincinnati that was treated much like a preseason game).
The knock on Jones during his five seasons with the Houston Texans was his inability to catch the football consistently. In addition to looking at younger wide receivers such as Tandon Doss and Deonte Thompson to play in the slot, Caldwell will look to Jones to help fill in the production gap left behind by Boldin.
“I do think that he has the ability. There’s no question about that,” Caldwell said. “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. Then obviously, we will use him as a big part of our offense as well.”
Head coach John Harbaugh acknowledged earlier in the offseason that the Ravens will need to monitor how much they use Jones as a receiver as well as a return specialist to keep him as fresh and productive as possible over the course of the season. His emergence as a bigger part of the passing game would certainly quell concerns over Newsome not adding a veteran wide receiver.
Jones doesn’t feel any additional pressure individually but views Boldin’s departure as reason for the entire group of wideouts to increase their production.
“You all know how I am, I just play my role,” Jones said. “Whatever they want me to do, I’m ready to do it. I think the whole receiving corps as a whole, we’ve all got to step up and make plays.”
The dancing star is certainly right as he’ll be under more scrutiny after missing the early portion of the offseason workout program in order to compete on “Dancing with the Stars.” The Ravens hope his big-play ability on display in the postseason is a precursor for more touchdowns to come in the regular season as he plays out the final year of a two-year contract paying him $4 million this season.
It would certainly aid in their bid to repeat as Super Bowl champs.
And why else did you think he elected to keep so busy this offseason after exercising an initial collection of touchdown dances last season?
“You think I was doing that dancing for nothing?” said Jones, drawing laughter from the gathered media. “I can’t wait to get in the end zone. I’m not going to dance until I get in the end zone.”