I think the argument boils down to this. While Jones provided a lot of big plays for the Falcons offense in 2011, much more so than Jenkins. And that big play ability also opened up more big play opportunities for others, particularly Gonzo and Douglas. But the drawback was that the Falcons missed the consistency that Jenkins was able to provide in terms of moving the chains. The 2010 offense was predicated on ball control, and that was a style of play that Jenkins was particularly good at, which was why he was better able to move the chains than Jones was. Ultimately, I think it makes both guys impact a relative wash. The Falcons were the league's least explosive offense in 2010, but they were relatively efficient due to their ability to sustain drives with a high 3rd down conversion rate. The team was more explosive in 2011, but as far as explosiveness go, they were still a middle of the road team. And their ability to convert third downs, while still better than most teams was not as effective as they were in 2010.
Ultimately it proves to be a wash, especially when you look at the impact on the QB (Matt Ryan), when you don't see this great leap forward from Ryan as a passer. He was better in 2011, but not by a huge degree. Which again reiterates the point that while Jones was an improvement, it wasn't as night and day as people often portray it as.
And this research only firms in my mind that the Falcons made a mistake by not keeping Jenkins last summer. This team would have been a better team had they had those two players working in conjunction rather than substituting one for the other. The team would have been better positioned to reap the benefits of both players had they worked them into the lineup together. Jenkins could have continued to help move the chains, while Jones could have provided the big plays, and you would have seen the team get the best of both worlds. But this team lacks vision when it comes to offensive football. The decision to cut players like Jenkins & Ovie are clear indicators that this team does not strive to maximize its offensive capacity.
But anyway, if you want to just look beyond the receptions, yards, and touchdowns for some more in-depth analysis of the two players, here are teh interesting stats:
Here are their receiving numbers normalized over 64 quarters worth of play. Remember that Jones played 49 quarters in 2011, and Jenkins played 44 in 2010.
Jones: 70.5 catches, 1253 yards, 10.4 TDs, 44.4 1st downs, 555 YAC, 124 targets
Jenkins: 59.6 catches, 734.5 yards, 3 TDs, 42.2 1st downs, 134 YAC, 106 targets
You also have to factor in that Jones went out for passes on 484 plays during the 2011 season, while Jenkins only went out for 387 plays in 2010. So if you were to normalize that to about 600 plays (roughly about what Jones would have done if he had played 16 games), then you see that the number of times they were targeted:
Jones: 19.63% of his pass plays targeted
Jenkins: 18.86% of his pass plays targeted
That basically means for every time they ran a pattern, over the course of a 16-game season, Jones would have gotten open about 4 more times than Jenkins.
So this notion that Jones got open a lot more than Jenkins isn't accurate. At least there is very little hard evidence to support it.
You also have to factor in that its harder for the eye to discern the "little plays" versus the big play. The big 80-yard touchdown is easy to see to all eyes, but the 13-yard gain on 2nd & 11 isn't. And in the case of the Falcons ball control offense in 2010, that 13-yard gain would have a lot more value because the offense then was built off sustained, long drives as opposed to the big play.
That's why Jenkins and Jones WPAs (Win Percentage Added) are roughly equal from one year to the next. Jones had a WPA of 1.08 in 2011, and Jenkins was 1.09. The big play factor is more easily seen in the Expected Points Added. But the difference still isn't huge, with Jones added 0.40 points per play, while Jenkins added about 0.31 points.
You also see their DVOAs aren't night and day. Jones was higher at 10.6%, which ranked 32nd in the league in 2011. But Jenkins 5.8% in 2010 ranked 35th in the league.
Also look at the factor that both were targeted downfield roughly the same amount. According to Pro Football Focus, Jones had 22 targets where the ball was thrown 20 yards or more, about 22.2% of his total 99 targets (includes playoffs). Jenkins was targeted on deep throws 16 times out of 77 targets, which amounts to about 20.8% of the time. Again, the idea that one had to be respected as a deep threat and the other did not really doesn't work out. Especially when you realize Jones caught about 36.3% of his deep passes, and Jenkins 31.3%, again not a huge disparity.
You also want to look at how each season's offense operated when either player was out of hte lineup. Here are Matt Ryan's numbers from when Jenkins and Jones were in and out of the lineup in 2010 and 2011 (includes playoffs):
Matt Ryan w/ Jenkins
423 attempts, 268 completions, 2726 yards, 22 TDs, 8 INTs, 18 sacks, 137 yards
Matt Ryan w/o Jenkins
177 attempts, 109 completions, 1165 yards, 7 TDs, 3 INTs, 10 sacks, 58 yards
Matt Ryan w/ Jones
474 attempts, 289 completions, 3388 yards, 24 TDs, 7 INTs, 23 sacks, 155 yards
Matt Ryan w/o Jones
133 attempts, 82 completions, 988 yards, 5 TDs, 5 INTs, 5 sacks, 34 yards
So here are the interesting numbers.
w/ Jenkins: 63.4%
w/o Jenkins: 61.6%
w/ Jones: 61%
w/o Jones: 61.7%
Average Per Attempt
w/ Jenkins: 6.44
w/o Jenkins: 6.58
w/ Jones: 7.15
w/o Jones: 7.43
w/ Jenkins: 5.2%
w/o Jenkins: 3.95%
w/ Jones: 5.06%
w/o Jones: 3.76%
w/ Jenkins: 1.89%
w/o Jenkins: 1.69%
w/ Jones: 1.48%
w/o Jones: 3.76%
w/ Jenkins: 4.08%
w/o Jenkins: 5.35%
w/ Jones: 4.63%
w/o Jones: 3.62%
w/ Jenkins: 91.2
w/o Jenkins: 86.9
w/ Jones: 93.4
w/o Jones: 81.3
Adj. Net yards Per attempt:
w/ Jenkins: 6.05
w/o Jenkins: 5.95
w/ Jones: 6.84
w/o Jones: 6.01
What do you take from all that? Well, comparing the Falcons offense with Jenkins or without him, Ryan completed more passes, threw more touchdowns, and took less sacks when Jenkins was in the league. But he did throw for less yards per attempt, threw a slightly higher amount of interceptions.
For Jones, Ryan threw more touchdowns, less interceptions, but he also didn't complete as many passes, throw for as many yards per attempt, and took more sacks when Jones was in the lineup.