When Jarvis Jones fell to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft, many felt it was a steal as the former Georgia Bulldog was exactly what the Steelers defense had been missing.
Jones had the pedigree of being one of the best college pass rushers in the nation and a guy that could make the “splash” plays Dick LeBeau’s defense had been missing for almost two years.
But 11 games into his rookie season there hasn’t been any “splash” plays. As a matter of fact, there haven’t been many plays of any kind coming from Jones.
With the Steelers riding a three-game winning streak and back in the thick of things in the AFC Wild Card race, it’s fair to call Jones one of the biggest disappointments of the season.
Instead of big plays, the Steelers have gotten only one sack and a mere 26 tackles from Jones.
Other rookies across the NFL are faring much better as Jones is tied for 18th among all rookies in sacks and ranks only 33rd among rookies in total tackles.
It’s fair to say that much more was expected from him this season especially since he has been on the field a lot.
If you look at how Jones has graded out by Pro Football Focus, he has only graded out positive in three games, with his best grade of 1.3 coming in Week 3. Last week he graded out a season-worst -3.8.
Add all of that up and you have to ask if Jones is a bust?
The answer to that would be no. It’s far to early to place that label on him but it is clear that Jones has to make some changes.
In this Steelers defense, Jones is asked to come off the edge and beat his man and get to the quarterback. he’s also asked to keep the edge on run plays.
These are things he really didn’t do much of in college as a bulk of his plays were made by using his speed and having the freedom to run around and make plays. In the NFL Jones has to get better at winning individual battles.
For one, he doesn’t use his hands very well. Blockers have had success getting their hands on him and once that happens he doesn’t have the strength to get off blocks. When he does, he doesn’t use his leverage very well as he gets himself too far up field and constantly runs himself out of plays.
Jones is much better as a freelancer and not a defined role, but that’s not really possibly in the Steelers 3-4.
While the 2013 season is a bust for the young linebacker, there’s still hope going forward. But for Jones to become the player many feel he can become he may have to bulk up some and really work on his technique.
With the Steelers having to make a decision on Jason Worilds in the offseason, Jones may have to be ready to make a huge impact next season.
Judging by his performance this season, that’s far from a certainty.