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O'HARA: Jones Jr. looking ahead to NFL season with optimism

Wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr. looks ahead to the Detroit Lions' upcoming season with 2020 vision, and he likes what he sees.

The Lions are conducting a virtual offseason program under nationwide quarantine restrictions caused by Covid-19 pandemic, and there is no certainty on when the NFL season will begin.

But whenever teams begin to practice and play games that count, Jones is optimistic that the Lions are headed in an upward direction.

"I think the vision is the same," Jones said this week in a telephone interview from his home in San Diego.

"Obviously, we have a talented team all around – that's players and coaches – with the people we have. I'm looking forward to getting back there, whenever we can. Getting back there and meeting the new guys we have, and the new coaches.

"We have some guys who are very impactful. I'm really excited to get back there, and excited to make this run."

Jones has proven to be one of those impactful players as he prepares for his ninth NFL season and fifth with the Lions since signing as a free agent in 2016.

Jones fit well last season in the philosophy of pushing the ball downfield in Darrell Bevell's first season as offensive coordinator.

Jones had 62 catches and nine touchdowns – both highs in his first four seasons as a Lion – despite missing three games with injuries.

He was not the only beneficiary in a passing game that allowed quarterback Matthew Stafford to spread the ball around before going out for the season with a back injury sustained in Game 8.

Kenny Golladay had 63 catches, with a league-high 11 TDs and an average of 18.3 yards per catch. Golladay made his first Pro Bowl. Veteran slot receiver Danny Amendola had 62 catches and a 10.9-yard average, second highest of his 11-year career.

Jones said he followed the personnel moves made in the draft and free agency.

As general manager Bob Quinn said in his post-draft press conference, the Lions focused more on defense in free agency and on offense in the draft.

After taking cornerback Jeff Okudah of Ohio State in the first round, Quinn took offensive players with five of the last eight picks.

The run on offense stared with running back D'Andre Swift of Georgia in the second round. After that came guards Jonah Jackson of Ohio State and Logan Stenberg of Kentucky, wide receiver Quintez Cephus of Wisconsin and running back/return specialist Jason Huntley of New Mexico State.

Before that, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, formerly of the Eagles, was signed in free agency to play tackle or guard.

Jones likes what was done in the draft to help the offense, but he looks at the Lions 2020 rookie class from a veteran's experience.

"I followed what we did," Jones said. "Obviously, we got some good players who can come in and help the squad. That's what it's all about. But at the end of the day, they need to earn their stripes.

"It just matters what you do when you get there. That's with every rookie, everybody coming into the NFL. That's the approach I took, and they're going to take their approach.

"It's going to be good."

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