When the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted Jarvis Jones as their first overall draft pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, the organization spoke of him being a truly special player. A talent which can change a game. The next great outside linebacker in a long lineage of greats to play the position.
He has been anything but that in his past two years. He suffered a lackluster rookie season and an injury plagued sophomore campaign which saw a tremendous start come to a screeching halt due to a broken wrist in Week 3.
Criticism has never been in short supply when it comes to Jones. Simply go to social media and ask fans what they think of Jones and you will hear some great response, few of which are positive.
"He is too small to play OLB at the NFL level."
"He isn't strong enough to rush NFL tackles."
"He is Huey Richardson all over again."
"Straight up bust of a pick."
"He needs to pack on some muscle...he should be training with James Harrison."
If you follow the team you know the usual suspects in terms of responses. However, there is one thing Jones did this offseason which has impacted his preparation for the 2015 season, and that was to do exactly what the last comment above mentioned. Jones was one of the linebackers who traveled with Harrison to Arizona to train with the veteran.
Did the work pay off? When Dejan Kovacevic of DKonPittsburghSports.com spoke with Jones before practice yesterday in terms of muscle and added weight it did. In his report, Jones said he has put on 15 pounds this offseason moving his total weight to 243-pounds.
"I'm a little bigger," he said. "I'm a little stronger, too."
As Steelers Nation surely can't believe the above statement, Jarvis Jones actually did put on muscle and appears to be better prepared to play outside linebacker for the Steelers from a physical standpoint. However, the game isn't just physical, but also mental. How is Jones preparing for that aspect of the game?
Jones talks exclusively about that here:
So Jones seems to be better prepared physically and mentally, but he is only one man of an 11-man unit. What are his overall expectations for the 2015 Steelers defense?
"I believe in this defense, and I believe what we all can do, myself included," Jones said. "I look at this defense right now, and I see a lot of young guys like myself who have talent, who always had talent, but who are now maybe a little stronger, a little smarter, a little better prepared. I know I'm ready."
For this defensive unit to be a championship caliber unit, every man who steps on the defensive side of the field will have to follow Jones' lead. Be physically and mentally prepared, but also to believe in themselves and the defense. As fans saw in 2014, when all 11 players on the field aren't on the same page, it creates gigantic holes in the defense which results in a defense which is hardly acceptable in Pittsburgh.
Jarvis Jones is bigger heading into 2015, and he is naturally more mentally prepared to succeed now than ever before. Whether Jones connects the dots and lives up to the billing of a first-round draft pick will only be decided when plays are made when the games count, but he is off to a good start in this young training camp.