The Pittsburgh Steelers drafted linebacker Jarvis Jones in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft. While he has been a major target for fans to point at when they're down and disappointed over the defense's shortcomings, Jones showed real improvement throughout his 2015 season and could be reliable starting outside linebacker for Pittsburgh.
There is no doubt that Jones has not been the standout player one would expect from a mid-first-round pick. In the next couple of weeks the Steelers organization needs to decide if he deserves his fifth-year option contract. The deadline for this is Tuesday, May 3rd. The big question fans want answered is if he is ready to step into the role of a big-time player who defensive coordinator Keith Butler can rely on to turn run plays back into the middle and bring pressure on 3rd down.
We take a look at some key plays Jones made last season that might encourage optimistic fans about his development against the pass.
Key Fumble against Whitworth
In a crucial moment in the Wild Card matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals, Jones proved to fans he might just be stepped up to force a key turnover. Getting to the edge against the Bengals' left tackle in Andrew Whitworth and providing a fumble truly swung the momentum to Pittsburgh.
Jones' career so far has lacked the aggressiveness in his pass rush that Steelers fans have become accustomed to in their outside linebackers. However his technique and drive to finish plays has gradually improved to the point that he can create problems for offensive lines. Here his drive and rip move were enough to keep his momentum towards the quarterback and give him the opportunity for the swipe that forced a fumble.
Red Zone INT vs Colts
Shortly after kick returner Jacoby Jones muffed a return that set up the Indianapolis Colts in prime position to score, Jarvis Jones created an impressive play which resulted in an interception. Jones faked like he was going to rush the passer and then dropped back into coverage. While this is his first interception of his career, he showcased an unfamiliar side of himself; his ability to drop back as a linebacker.
In Jones' backpedal he opened up to his left, identified Coby Fleener as a receiver to his left and maintained his hook/curl zone coverage on the play just enough to make a play on the ball. The Steelers' will not rely on Jones to make crucial interceptions in his time here, but this was a solid job bringing home a red zone turnover.
Impressive play against Joe Thomas
Cleveland Browns left tackle Joe Thomas is one of the best in the league. This play illustrates an impressive bull-rush by Jones who then proceeds to tackle quarterback Johnny Manziel after his offensive linemen went down. Jones did an excellent job at getting inside of Thomas' chest which provided leverage to push the top offensive linemen back into the pocket while it was collapsing.
While Thomas does trip, Jones' rush was what forced him back so far into the pocket so quickly. This was an example of the tenacity Pittsburgh needs from Jones in the pass rush for him to be part of a powerful outside linebacker pass rush combination.
Part two coming soon
Jones' pass rush skills, despite these GIFs have not been consistent enough to warrant confidence from the Pittsburgh fan-base. He needs to have a productive 2016 season in order to earn his keep, but he can also do that with what he brings to the table against the run.
Our next installment on Jones will review some of his technique and form against the run.