For the second game in a row, Cleveland Browns wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones quietly had a really productive game. Lost in what was otherwise a deflating and thorough defeat at the hands of the Arizona Cardinals, Jones provides more hope for an offense that could use it as they were down both starting tackles and running back Nick Chubb and watched fellow running back Kareem Hunt go down with a calf injury.
Against the Cardinals, Jones was targeted five times, caught four of them including a Hail Mary and scored both Browns touchdowns for the game.
A player that looked like he was ready to make an impact this season, he had a quiet first month of the season in which he was barely even targeted, catching four passes on four targets for 57 yards. Jones really wasn't a factor and plays like the fumble against the Houston Texans only provided more reason to be worried it wasn't going to happen this year.
The past two games, Jones has nine receptions on 11 targets for 171 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He is now second on the team in receiving yards behind tight end David Njoku.
What's important when it comes to Jones isn't just that he's producing, but how he's doing it. Jones has always had good hands dating back to his days at the University of Michigan, but he's really taking advantage of his size. Jones is a huge target with a broad build and he's been boxing out defensive backs to make plays.
Even if a Hail Mary is a fluke play by nature, the way Jones played the ball is what made it worked. The ball was able to get over the defenders underneath and he used his body to prevent defenders from behind to impact the play. He was the only one that could make a play on the ball and he made a catch on a pass that traveled 66 yards in the air look relatively routine.
This is becoming normal for him making plays. He's also using his size and strength to his advantage after the catch as illustrated by his first touchdown reception. He caught the ball near the sideline, turned and used his strength to simply overpower the lone defender between him and the end zone.
For all the problems the Browns have, their approach of finding the best matchups on offense is paying dividends, even if it can be frustrating at times. The top three Browns receivers through six games are Njoku, Jones and Odell Beckham, who missed the first two games of the season.
Njoku and Jones are incredibly efficient, averaging 14 and 15.2 yards per target respectively. Without the Hail Mary, Jones would still be averaging 12.2 yards per target, whish is excellent.
Beckham is the least efficient of the group, averaging 7.5 yards per target, though that is actually improving. It needs to continue and get at least to 9 or 10 yards per target.
Jones gives the Browns another big target that can contribute in a number of different areas, including the red zone. He's still developing as a route runner, but the more experience he gets, the better he will be.
Should he continue to develop and the Browns are able to consistently threaten opponents with three different receivers that can attack deep down the field and create after the catch, the offense becomes far more dangerous. Theoretically, focusing attention on one or two of them now opens up the third to create production, not unlike the dynamic the Cardinals have with their top four receivers.
Their spacing is fantastic and that could enable players like Demetric Felton to generate cheap, easy yardage underneath as well. Jarvis Landry may stand to become a beneficiary when he returns to the lineup.
The Browns have issues on offense to address and injuries to overcome, which factored in to why they fared so poorly against the Cardinals. Nevertheless, the Browns are coming up with additional ways to challenge opponents with what could be an emerging threat in Donovan Peoples-Jones. It's one of the few positives to take away from this game and could pay dividends down the road if the offense gets healthy and starts stringing victories together.