Allen Park — Marvin Jones Jr. was born and raised in Southern California.
But after a few weeks back in Allen Park, the veteran receiver said Tuesday “it feels like I’m back home.”
“Even though it’s a different squad, different mentality, still feels like I’m back home,” Jones said. “These are the practice fields I’ve always been on, so it feels good.”
Jones, 33, is entering his 11th NFL season after signing a one-year deal with the Lions this offseason. He experienced the peaks and valleys of previous regimes, playing two seasons under Jim Caldwell and three under Matt Patricia before spending two years with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Though it feels in some ways as if he never left, he recognized that the mood around the building is far different than when he left following the 2020 season.
“The thing about (Lions head coach Dan Campbell) is that he definitely (can) rile up a group. Every day in the team meetings there’s going to be laughter and some motivation going. Great guy to follow,” Jones said. “I think we’ve always had a locker room that’s together, but right now I think we see just the energy (in) players, coaches, organization, even the city.
“Everything’s buzzing. We’ve just got to put our best foot forward and do what we’re expected to do.”
When the Lions signed Jones back in 2016, they did so with big expectations, hoping he could fill the void left by the retiring Calvin Johnson. In those five seasons, his 36 touchdowns were enough to become third all-time for a Lions receiver behind Johnson (83) and Herman Moore (62).
This time around, after Jones hauled in just seven touchdowns over two seasons with Jacksonville, the expectations are a little bit different. But he doesn’t see himself as less of a receiver, even if the production has dropped off a tad.
“We have a lot of guys out there that could do different things, do similar things, but add different attributes to the game,” Jones said. “I think when you have a roster like that, and specifically, receivers and running back, all across the board…it’s just amazing. So in terms of me, I think I could do it all.”
While the Lions organization has made massive improvements since Jones’ departure, it’s not as though he can’t relate to the change. His first year with the Jaguars was during the tumultuous Urban Meyer season, when Jacksonville earned the No. 1 pick for a second straight year.
Jacksonville’s 2022 season was nearly identical to Detroit’s — the one difference, of course, being that the Jaguars snuck into the playoffs. Jones caught a touchdown pass from Trevor Lawrence in Jacksonville’s 27-point comeback against the Los Angeles Chargers.
“They were a team kind of just like us, when we were with the Jags,” Jones said. “Had a rough stretch, lost some close games, and then ended up turning around. I think our game (Week 13 loss to Lions) was the turning point, unfortunately. It was a turning point for both of us, cause I don’t think (the Jaguars) lost after that.
“(The Lions) are a tough team and you could tell in the second half of the season that they were a different team — less mistakes, more aggressive, stuff like that.”