Our last article on Jarvis Jones focused on his pass rushing skills and how he needs to become a more productive athlete in 2016 in order to earn his keep. Jones has been a unique linebacker ever since he was drafted in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft. He is an athlete who has been criticized after earning a total of 5 sacks since coming into the league. Despite fans judging his ability on defense, Jones has contributed in often unsung ways in his career to this point.
Since we have already covered his ability to rush the quarterback, we will focus on the tape showcasing his technique and form against the run.
Block-shed and awareness
Jones has gradually improved his overall technique in each of his three seasons for Pittsburgh and this was evident even on the first game of the 2015 season.
In a week one matchup against the New England Patriots, Jones went up against a top tier left tackle in Nate Solder. Jones did several fundamental things right on this play. He gets underneath Solder's pads, his hands inside of Solder's and keeps his head up the entire time and find Dion Lewis. Winning battles like this at the line of scrimmage against highly paid offensive tackles on first and second down runs is something which earns a player's keep.
Quicker play recognition and execution
In past years, Jones has looked lost when attacking certain plays and hesitated in moments which allowed offenses more time to execute their own plays without too much disruption. That is something that Jones consistently showed his improvement on throughout this past season.
Against the Denver Broncos in the playoffs, Jones did not hesitate on this play and shut it down with a sharp angle to the ball carrier, running back Ronnie Hillman for a short gain.
Stephon Tuitt and Ryan Shazier slowed down the running back by closing the hole that he was planning on going through. This created an opportunity and some time for Jarvis to reach the athlete and tackle him in the backfield.
Avoids potential cut block
In a matchup against the San Diego Chargers, he avoided a potential cut-block and assisted with a tackle on running back Melvin Gordon. This is another example of Jones' awareness being one of his biggest assets. He manages to identify both the the inside run and cut block immediately to go after Gordon.
Becoming a role player
Jarvis Jones is seen as a disappointment by many because he was thought to be an explosive player that would become a star in the Steelers' 3-4 scheme. While that has not come to fruition, he certainly has made himself a valuable role player on the outside for Pittsburgh.
As the final year of his rookie contract is this season, he will have a lot to play for throughout 2016 to earn his keep within the organization or make his market value higher for free agency. Jones could be retained on a three year deal that is not so expensive to Pittsburgh should the team want to keep him on as a veteran that knows the system. With the soon approaching retirement of James Harrison, that need may be just enough to make Jones a Steeler for the years to come when you take into consideration his developing skills.