Adam "Pacman" Jones is back.
He could have been forgiven for throwing in the towel after his disappointing performance in Houston back in January. A couple of Pacman-made errors closed the door on Cincy's 2011 campaign and further dented his reputation.
What a difference a year makes.
Jones has retooled and revitalised his game in recent weeks, and following the Bengals' losing streak earlier this year, Jones has been one the key players in turning the ship around.
Mike Zimmer has been pleased with Jones, and as a result he's getting more game time (via CBSBengals).
DC Mike Zimmer says CB Adam Jones concentrated more, been more disciplined recently. Explains increase in snaps.— Bengals RapidReports (@CBSBengals) November 29, 2012
Jones has certainly been more disciplined in recent weeks and has improved significantly in his mental game. He's making more sensible decisions and has bettered his ability to sit back, read the opposing offense and make a play.
We already know the extent to which Jones can be a game-changer on special teams. Whenever he fields a punt, there is a legitimate belief that he poses a serious threat. He's more than proven that is the case in 2012.
While Brandon Tate has often looked like a deer in the headlights, Jones has shown smarts, speed and the ability to make something out of absolutely nothing.
There is also something to be said of his character, and by that I don't mean his past. Marvin Lewis has alluded to the Bengals need to play more aggressively and stop being so nice to opponents. That is not to say that Jones is a dirty player, far from it.
What he does have is passion. This week, we saw Andrew Whitworth turn it up a notch, proving the Bengals are no soft touch. Adam Jones brings that attitude every week, and if his run of form continues, it can be a massive force for good and he can be that kind of talisman on defense.
Leon Hall may be the Bengals' best corner, but 2012 has so far been a rebuilding year for him and his surgically repaired Achilles. Terence Newman has been great in flashes, but disappointing for much of the time. Nate Clements is as good as expected, but isn't a long-term solution, while Dre Kirkpatrick is still some way off contributing meaningfully.
It's come as somewhat of a surprise, but in what has been his best year in Cincinnati, Adam Jones has become the measuring stick. His skill set is ever-growing, with his corner blitz a thing to behold. He has ticks in the forced fumble, TD and sacks columns—worthy rewards for his hard work.
With a 6-5 record, the Bengals need to win out before they meet Pittsburgh and Baltimore in the last two weeks of the year, and the X-factor Jones provides could mean the difference between wins and losses.
One year on from his playoff capitulation, Pacman Jones is turning into the player he always should have been and it's coming at just the right time for Cincinnati.