2013 NFL Draft – Scouting The Prospects: Jarvis Jones

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As we inch closer to this year’s NFL Draft this month, our draft team here at Turn On The Jets will be running a series of individual prospect evaluations. These scouting reports are intended to provide an in-depth breakdown of individual prospects in this year’s draft class highlighting players’ overall strengths, weaknesses, potential upside, red flags, and what their best schematic fit will be at the next level. Today, we continue our series with Georgia Outside Linebacker Jarvis Jones. 

J JonesTale Of The Tape

Prospect: Jarvis Jones

Position: Outside Linebacker

College: Georgia

Measurables: 6’2″ 245 lbs, 33″ Arm Length, 9-1/8″ Hands

 

 

 

Georgia OLB Jarvis Jones has been one of the most highly debated prospects in this year’s draft class. After an extremely productive season at Georgia last year, one that included 86 total tackles, 14.5 sacks, 3 pass breakups, and 1 interception, many have felt as though Jones is the best prospect at his position this year, and arguably the best defensive prospect in the entire class.

While his high level of production in the best conference in college football should certainly speak to what type of player he is, they are somewhat deceptive. Although Jones racked up the numbers at Georgia, there are some serious question marks about how his style of play will translate to the next level. Let’s take a look at the good, the bad, and the best possible fit in the NFL when it comes to the former Bulldog.

For a good understanding of the type of player Jones is, and why he has been successful throughout his collegiate career, one must first understand two separate styles of play when it comes to the outside linebacker position.

The first type of player is one who relies more on his eyes and ability to see and react to things, as he is asked to do, within his scheme. To succeed, these players must have a thorough understanding of the defense they play in, as well as a feel for what the opposing offense may be doing on an upcoming play based on formation, pre-snap alignment, and flow of the offensive line, backs, and sometimes wide receivers (if split out in coverage) upon the snap of the ball.

These players make their living on being able to feel what is coming based on knowledge, film study, and visual instinct. They generally have good range from sideline to sideline, giving them the ability to get to where they need to be to fulfill their assignment, as well as the ability to chase plays down. Generally, these players tend to be more evasive rather than playing with an attack, more physical style of play. The key for success for these players is not getting too caught up with opposing blockers because they need to keep themselves free and able to flow to where their assignment calls for them to be.

The other type of player is an attack style of outside linebacker. These are players who are upfield pass rushers and physical perimeter defenders who will engage their blocker to feel where the play may be going, and then shed when and where necessary, in order to fulfill their assignment within the scheme. These players are generally better at rushing the passer than they may be in coverage, and are certainly more impactful against the run due to their aggressive approach. The reason for this is because an attack style of play can set a player up to penetrate the backfield and make tackles for loss, or obtain sacks, as opposed to a player who is more comfortable reading things and generally playing more conservative by not risking the big play, in fear of being beat for something big from the offense.

So which type of outside linebacker is Jarvis Jones? While his numbers scream attack style OLB, they are more of a result of the scheme he played in at Georgia, rather than the style of play that fits him best.

Jones relies a lot on his ability to read things with his eyes as opposed to disrupting through said attack style of play. While he was able to tally 14.5 sacks as a pass rushing OLB in Georgia’s 3-4 scheme last year, this number was more of a result of the defensive schematics putting him in the best position for his style of play to be effective.

What this means is that Jones is a read style OLB who succeeded in his role in a 3-4 because his coaches put him in optimal situations to succeed by making his style of play work within their scheme. Rarely was Jones asked to take an opposing tackle one on one in his pass rush with the sole goal of beating them with pure physicality to get to the quarterback. To get a better understanding of this, let’s take a look at where Jones is at his best vs. where he may be lacking some.

The Good

Jones sackJones has a very good hands in fending off blocks upon his initial move. He uses quick strike techniques to keep the opposing offensive lineman’s hands off of him in order for him to keep himself free of getting tangled up, where he shows some signs of struggle. If he is effective in this technique, he has a good ability to get the edge with his second step, and if he does, he is very good at dipping his shoulder and running the circle to get to the quarterback in the pocket. What this means is that he has the ability to maintain outside leverage on the opposing offensive lineman, while fighting pressure with pressure and squeezing the pocket enough so he doesn’t run by the passer and give him a lane to step up into the pocket.

Against the run, Jones is at his best when he can evade oncoming blockers. His strength in run defense is his ability to avoid blockers, rather than fighting them off. Because of his overall athleticism and flexibility, he has made a living on playing like this throughout his collegiate career. When he can avoid blockers, which he did often at Georgia, he can put himself in position to make plays.

Jarvis JonesIn coverage, Jones seems to be very comfortable. He shows good recognition of routes with a very good ability to react to them within his assignment. He is fluid in his drops and moves well laterally, as well as in changing direction moving backward to forward. He has the ability to keep passing targets in front of him and reacting, based on what they do.

The Bad

Jones blockedJones lacks physicality in his play. As aforementioned, he is much more about evading blockers, rather than fighting them off to make a play. In his pass rush, while he has a good first strike with his hands, he rarely, if ever, demonstrates the a move beyond his initial set up. In short, while he can jar an opposing tackle with his first strike, he doesn’t follow it up with a move to get by them. Therefore, opposing offensive linemen are then able to regain their base and set up in front of him, where he becomes virtually useless due to his lack of ability to fight through a block. While his knack for keeping opposing offensive lineman’s hands off of him is helpful, if he fails with that, he seems lost.

Against the run, the same deficiencies are apparent. When he can evade a blocker, he can help against the run and make plays. However, if a blocker gets into him – something that did happen a fair amount in college, and presumably will happen more in the NFL – his inability to shed or fight off hurts him. When an offensive lineman engages him, Jones is easily moved off the line of scrimmage or out of the realm of the play.

Similarly, Jones’ lack of physicality hurts him in defending pulling blockers. On counter plays, perimeter defenders are normally asked to spill a pulling guard, tackle, or lead blocking back, meaning they attack the blocker head on with the intention of clogging the underneath lane and “spilling” the play to the outside. Now, this varies based on overall scheme and coverage. Usually, for this role to hold valid, the defense needs to be in a cover 2 scheme so the corner squatting in the flat can pick up the leakage on the outside. If not in a cover 2, there needs to be at least another player out in coverage accounting for this area of the field – sometimes an inside linebacker split out over a slot receiver, who then squats in the flat at the snap of the ball.

In these cases, Jones appeared apprehensive in attacking the lead blocker. He would normally revert to his desire to evade the oncoming blocker which would usually result in him running upfield, creating a lane for the ball carrier underneath him. If he did not evade the blocker and did, in fact, attempt to take him head on, he was either driven out, or knocked completely off balance, sometimes even onto the ground.

Conclusion

Jones’ style of play is not a bad one by any means. While he doesn’t depend on physicality, he generally does a good enough job avoiding and getting around blockers to make plays – an obvious testament to the immense numbers he put up at Georgia. However, the approach played at Georgia greatly limited the amount of head on blocks he would have to fight off through use of creative blitzes, stunts, and scheming to put the more physical players in the position to take on blockers. While he does not demonstrate the ability to fight off blocks, he has proved he can evade them well enough to succeed as the type of player he is.

The issue here, is where he fits. While he played in a 3-4 at Georgia and had success, his style of play for an OLB in that scheme was unconventional. Typically, these are players who are going to smash opposing tackles and control them in setting the edge, with the ability to react to the ball carrier, shed the block, and make the play. In their pass rush, these are players with multiple moves, counter moves, and just an overall ability to get off the blocker at all costs.

Jones, on the other hand, is very dependent on not allowing players to get into him. At the next level, it is a virtual certainty that the lineman he will be going up against will be able to do this in their pass protection. While he could beat them with his ability to evade for a few sacks a year, he would seriously need to work on counter moves to get by them when he fails in keeping their hands off of him.

rn_georgia_olemiss_ms_04His strengths are in his range, coverage ability, and ability to flow from sideline to sideline. As a result, I think he best fits as a Will OLB in a 4-3 scheme. This will allow him to roam much more freely and will not subject him to as many head on blocks as he may face as a 3-4 OLB. His ability to evade blockers will best be utilized when opposing offensive lineman do not have a straight shot at him.

On a similar note, he will have more success rushing the passer out of blitzes from this position. If he can be limited in his pass rush attempts at the next level, combined with schematics of blitz packages keeping the opposing offensive lineman guessing where he may be coming from, he can utilize his evasiveness and athleticism to get in between gaps and avoid getting tangled up with a lineman, as he would if he was rushing the passer in a one on one blocking situation off the edge.

11 thoughts on “2013 NFL Draft – Scouting The Prospects: Jarvis Jones

  1. One thing you left out: Jones plays with a relentless motor and never gives up on a play. Look at his highlights and you’ll see a fair amount of ‘coverage sacks’ with JJ coming back into the pocket to get the QB.

    When I watch this guy, I see Clay Matthews’ style of play. To your point, if ‘reading’ the play is his strongest attribute, he should be a good ‘edge setter’, for a 3-4, where his ability to read and anticipate would allow him to get out wide, before a blocker could get their hands on him. After all, a good 3-4 OLB simply wants to contain the edge and force the play back inside where all the help is. Finally, if you watch tape on this guy, he has an uncanny ability to ‘jump the snap’. Now, NFL QBs are much more savvy at disguising snap counts, so I expect some rookie mistakes, but as a pass rusher it gives him a big advantage.

    You said his production was highly influenced by Georgia’s scheme. Did you ever consider Georgia ‘schemed’ around his abilities because of his knack for making plays? If Coples and Wilkerson take the next step and Ellis improves, this kid would see a lot of 1 on 1s and his motor, combined with his quick first step and evasiveness would allow him to instantly produce.

  2. One more thought…read all the scouting reports on Vontaze Burfict, from last year. Once you get past the ‘character issues’ (which were a joke), a number of scouts had concerns about his speed and how his role on his college defense, would translate to the NFL. All the while, if you watched tape-especially in his Sophomore season-all you saw was him ‘making plays’. Jarvis Jones makes plays, not everyone in the NFL has that capability.

  3. Thanks for the feedback! To your point, the ability to “read” is more about his ability to react to what he sees rather than what he feels. 3-4 OLBs read to set the edge by reacting to the hat of the opposing offensive lineman upon initial contact at the snap of the ball.

    As far as the other things you said, I’ve watched everyone of his games from this past season more than once, along with a couple from 2011. Very rarely did I ever see him counter when he was unsuccessful with his initial move. If he can get the edge by evading the opposing lineman engaging him, he can get to the quarterback. The issue is, when he is unsuccessful with that first move, he shows an inability to recover.

    I certainly do not question his motor, but running down plays from behind and on the other side of the field was part of my argument to why he is more of that read type LB. He prefers to read things with his eyes and react to what he is seeing rather than engaging and reading the play based on what he feels from the blocker.

    I was high on Burfict last year as well, despite the poor testing performance, which is why I did not note anything about Jones’ poor pro day. I think he plays faster than his tests would indicate, but I don’t see the elite get off that you refer to.

    Him being in one on one situations has nothing to do with his inability to mix up the way he defends blocks and works in counter moves when rushing the passer. There were countless times last season where a Jets OLB would have a one on one situation, just about every possible pass rush. That is the reason Wilkerson & Coples were drawing so many double teams – opposing offenses knew the OLBs could not beat a one on one block.

    For the Matthews comparison, while Clay certainly has a similar evasive ability, he does not rely solely on that as Jones tends to do. Matthews is physical, as well as elusive, which is part of what makes him the special player he is.

  4. I wonder how much his play style has been affected by his earlier diagnosis at USC. This is troubling because if his unwillingness to engage a blocker is partially psychological it will be exploited more and more as his tape is studied by the pros.

  5. Chris..I’m sure you watch more film than I, but if you don’t see an uncanny ability to get off the ball, we just differ on opinion. I mean, you suggest he’s a ‘one trick pony’, as a pass rusher. The guy had 29 sacks the past 2 years, if his one move is beating the Tackle to the edge, he must have some first step.

    When I look at Jones, I see production and I see a LB that doesn’t come off the field. Is he perfect? No, he can be engulfed by offensive lineman, but he’s shown the ability to develop, so why don’t we think he can develop a spin move? On top of that, with a player like Jones, Ryan would have a field day with blitz packages.

    If you want to say Jordan, over Jones, there is an argument there. My worry with him is he’s already had shoulder surgery, which makes me worry how strong he’ll be able to be. However, he certainly exhibited all the qualities you want in a 3-4 OLB, and he has the measurables. Now Mingo, you can have him. First off, he won’t be on the field every down, from day 1. Second, look at his hips and lower body-it’s small. His frame is not one that will add weight easily, and if he is able to, it will slow him down. Finally, he simply didn’t produce enough. Against ‘Bama the guy didn’t have a single tackle. I might be able to be talked into Ansah, even though I like the Jet DL. The Giants have proven you can’t have enough good DL and you don’t need ‘Revis-like’ CBs if you’re getting to the QB.

    In the end, if Jones is there he’s the pick. For all the things you point out he can’t do, he still produced more than any of these other guys. Jet fans have seen way too many ‘upside’ guys. All these guys who are ‘moving up’ on draft boards after the combine/pro days befuddle me. After the season ends, and there are no more games, Jones loses ground? At 9, he’s a gift….

  6. This article has alarmed me more than I had thought. It seems that, while the top-end OLBs in this draft have tremendous upside, all of them either have holes or require difficult transitions.

    Mingo is dedicated, hard-working, and seemingly selfless in completing his duties, but seems to rely on speed and may have problems gaining weight/is undersized. Jordan is an outstanding athlete and workhorse, and also excels in coverage, but his strength is under question and his recovery from shoulder surgery will reduce the amount of muscle he can gain before the start of the season. Ansah is freakish, but raw. With Jones, I will remind you, spinal stenosis is still an issue; he was medically cleared, but this does not mean that his condition has disappeared and it can very well mean an early retirement for him. He CAN develop, but he unfortunately may not have as much time as others to do so.

    The Jets will have a very difficult choice on Apr. 25. Each of these guys carries risk, and other solid picks do not have the same urgency or value for the team as an OLB. Same old Jets.

  7. based on reading the reviews on the LBs everyone says we are targeting, i hope the jets use their first round pick on offense. all of the LBs seem to come with potential issues and i’d rather take a sure fire OLman or one of the game changing WRs available than take a chance on one of these guys. that is just my gut feeling right now. now, if we trade revis and have two picks, sure, use one on one of the LBs and another for offense. but we don’t need another Gholston pick.

  8. I agree with Lindman. At 9 Jones is a gift. He and Star are the only ‘Blue Chip’ guys in this class. Whether or not he develops a counter move, he can still be a productive player. The counter move only decides his ceiling. The reason I like Jones is he has a high floor.

    As a prospect he seems like a better version of Lamarr Woodley: All American; very productive; poor timed speed. I think Jones will at the very least have Lamarr’s type of production in the Jets defense.

    The only OLB prospect with better film than Jones is Tank Carradine (But a lot of people would call that a reach at 9). April 20 will be Tank’s pro day and I’m really hoping he does something to justify the 9th pick.

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