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Adam Jones' focus is at 'different level' as he leads Bengals secondary

CINCINNATI -- How can a 32-year-old who has always played with a physical, intense, almost reckless abandon still look like a spry rookie?

That's the question many have about Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Adam Jones, who even in his advanced football age, doesn't appear to be slowing down anytime soon.

"He's playing with his brain and that's key," Bengals co-defensive backs coach Vance Joseph said. "Obviously he's got great physical skills. He's still quick, he can run, he's got ball skills and he's tough as hell. But he's playing with his brain, and that's half the battle.

"His focus is really, really high right now, man. ... It's a different level."

With 42 tackles, Jones is on pace to breeze by the career-high 63 he recorded in 2006 and 2014. He also has a pair of interceptions this season; he needs two more to tie his career high. As a punt returner, his average is hovering close to other career-best marks.

A case could be made that Jones is having his best season.

"That's coming from maturity and listening," Joseph said. "Most young players, they don't really listen. They hear you, but they don't listen. He's really listening. He's applying what he hears from coaches, and he's watching the film, watching the splits, watching the formations. And that takes maturity, man. It's hard to stay focused for 18, 19, 20 weeks and every week do the same thing over and over again."

Defensive end Carlos Dunlap has witnessed much of the extra preparation Jones and 30-year-old corner Leon Hall have put in away from Paul Brown Stadium.

"Just hearing how him and Leon and those guys talk about situations. They talk about it before they even run the play. They know what they're going to get when they get it," Dunlap said. "Now we've got the whole locker room preparing the same way. That's why we're in tune."

Before Wallace Gilberry arrived in Cincinnati in 2012, he had heard all about Jones' past. He wasn't quite sure what to think about his controversial new teammate. But the more time Gilberry has spent with him, the more he believed the perception didn't match the reality of who Jones was.

"Don't get me wrong, he's not going to take no crap from nobody, that's just how he is," Gilberry said. "But he's nothing like the picture that was painted before I got here."

Who is Jones then?

"One of the most caring guys you'll ever want to meet," Gilberry said. "Give you the shirt off his back if he knows you needed it. One of those types of guys. We can go on and on about my respect for him, but at the end of the day, I know when it's third-and-3, I can count on Adam locking up whoever he's guarding and give us time to get a sack."

Jones is set to hit free agency this offseason. While most teams might look at his age and think about offering a one-year, end-of-career deal, they would be wise to look beyond the way he has played just this season. Jones hasn't missed a game since 2011. Maybe a multiyear deal would be prudent.

Gilberry, a soon-to-be free agent himself, made a simple request to the Bengals' front office.

"Pay the man."