The Georgia defense was built uniquely in the landscape of college football with a defensive line comprised of a line of all 300lb+ players, two of which were in excess of 350lbs. The focal point of the Georgia defense the past two years was their stand up pass rusher and USC transfer Jarvis Jones. Jones transferred from USC after their doctors told him he had spinal stenosis and should stop playing football. Instead, Jones went down to Athens and became a superstar for the Bulldogs. His style of play looks more like that of a Rottweiler than a Bulldog and his passion, strength, and pure will allowed him to be extremely successful in Georgia’s system. Jones gives teams a player who is extremely polished as a pass rusher and run defender, but there are concerns that could hurt him in the draft process and that combination could make Jones go anywhere from the fifth pick to the seventeenth pick in the upcoming draft.
Jones is listed at 6’3” 241lbs. He is incredibly strong and he knows how to use it. His speed is merely average, but he makes up for it with a great first step and explosiveness off the snap. Combine that with impressive agility that allows him to move laterally with alacrity. It will be interesting to keep an eye on his triangle numbers at the combine and individual workouts because there is some concern that he is maxed out or close to it limiting his upside from college. The other question mark is his speed. He is not in a position that is asking him to run far, but his top end speed does not jump out and if he can or has improved it at all since the season, it will only further cement his status as one of the top prospects. Lastly, there is this lingering question of spinal stenosis. Every team will have their own doctors look at him and grade him accordingly, which could be the difference between a top 5 pick on some boards and off others entirely.
Jones is a violent tackler that hits with a lot of power. He does not require a ton of space to generate that power either and is always a threat to cause a fumble on his sheer power alone. Jones is a consistent wrap up tackler that does a good job of attacking the midsection of opposing ball carriers and can drive them to the ground or wrap them up and drag them down. Occasionally, Jones will make an ill-advised lunge or try to shoulder bomb the opponent, but for the most part, Jones is an extremely consistent tackler who not only gets the ball carrier to the ground but sends a message doing it.
As impressive as Jones is as a pass rusher, he might be better as a run defender. Jones does a tremendous job of stalemating blocks at the point of attack and has a tremendous punch to jolt blockers. He can hold up at the point of attack against offensive linemen as well as tight ends and has shown the ability to shed blocks to make tackles. Periodically he will just shove the offensive linemen back into the backfield. Jones also has a knack for knifing into the backfield to make tackles on the ball carrier for loss amassing 44 in the past two years in Athens. He excels attacking downhill against the run like a defensive lineman but with the agility of a linebacker to make plays. Occasionally, Jones gets himself in trouble by going up field too much and taking himself out of the play, but this appears to be more of a function of the Georgia defensive scheme rather than Jones instincts.
When it comes to rushing the passer, Jones is a divisive prospect. Critics point out his speed and worry he will have trouble turning the corner in the NFL. Jones is able to turn the corner well, but needs to continue improving how well he can bend under opponents’ blocks and when he goes in too tall, he will struggle to turn and end up overrunning plays where he gets too wide on his rush. For the most part, Jones is looking to fire off the line out of his jackrabbit stance as fast as he can, get up field and then engage the tackle. At this point Jones determines which of three options he will take against his opponent: Continue up field and use his arms to push past the block, go right at the blocker with a bull rush, or cut back inside and underneath the block to get to the quarterback His bull rush is powerful enough where he can knock back opponents that are braced for it against the run. When he has them off balance trying to cut off his speed rush he will periodically knock them off balance and occasionally drive them right into the quarterback. Because of his impressive lateral agility, he can take some opponents by surprise with what basically amounts to a great jump cut when he plants his outside leg. His outside speed rush is probably his least effective of the three options, but he is still able to get up the field quickly enough to get past a number of offensive tackles and use his strength and leverage to get to the quarterback. This is also the move that could have the most trouble making the transition to the NFL when he plays against more athletic offensive tackles. Still, all of these moves are more effective because the opponent has a difficult time predicting which one is coming. Jones has had a ton of success with all three approaches and if that is all he did in terms of pass rush moves, that would be enough. He also employs a good swim move, up and under moves, and a decent push pull move. His results speak for themselves with an incredible 28 sacks and 46 pressures in 26 games over the past two years.
It is important to point out that some of the production Jones has had has been based on the scheme and Georgia doing everything they could to set him up for success. In fairness to Jones, when opportunities presented themselves, he consistently made the most of them, but there were a lot of stunts that worked like running plays with a 340-350lb defensive lineman clearing a path for him to get to the quarterback. These stunts are another great example of Jones’s first step and his impressive lateral agility. One of the things that stand out as something that could be an issue for NFL teams is the fact that Jones does not use a 3-point stance on tape. Unless a team like Pittsburgh ends up with Jones with a very pure 3-4 scheme, virtually every scheme will use their premier pass rusher with their hand on the ground in certain formations. If he had a good three point stance, it would allow Jones to have a natural edge with his leverage. Jones will play too high and needs to get more consistent with his leverage anyway. Usually, Jones simply overpowers the opponent but against qualified opponents, he has more issues.
Another concern that sticks out is the fact that Jones will be so dominant that people expect him to be consistently great and then a team will line up a tight end to block him solo. It stands to reason that Jones should punish them for insulting him with such a matchup. The problem is the tight end will have stretches where they hold their own against Jones or take him out entirely. It stands to reason teams will have pause when they see what it supposed to be a franchise pass rusher unable to beat tight ends in stretches. They are expecting to see the tackle need a tight end to help; not take him out by himself. Is this simply an effort, motor, and consistency issue or is there a bigger problem. The fact multiple teams were willing to make this move suggests they felt there was a more fundamental problem.
Jones is a fish out of water in pass coverage at this point mostly due to the fact he did it so rarely. While he was technically an outside linebacker in Georgia’s system, he was playing the role of a stand up defensive end and his job was coming up and attacking. He is clearly uncomfortable when he drops back into zone and wants to be too physical in man coverage. These are issues that should improve when he gets into the NFL. The one thing Jones does well when he drops is flow with the play. Not only will he flow with the quarterback, he is always a threat to go up and hit the quarterback.
In terms of fit, Jones will most likely to end up in a 3-4 scheme as an outside linebacker, but his best fit might actually be a SAM linebacker in a 4-3 with an expanded pass rushing role not unlike Von Miller in Denver. As t a stand up rusher with a four man front, Jones would give a 4-3 team the ability to have a ton of talented pass rushing options on the field at one time. He is also such a good run player that he fits the role of a true SAM backer so well. It would also alleviate any concerns over Jones’ size because he would not need to be as big to fill that role. And in nickel situations he could move up to the defensive line and get after the quarterback. Still, the way the draft plays out, Jones will probably end up as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 system. He has the ability to hold up against the run on the edge there as well as rush the passer and go one on one with opposing tackles, but there will be more concern over his size and how much bigger he can get in the NFL. Whichever scheme Jones is picked, he is the starter as soon as the pick is announced.
For a comparison, in terms of what he does and how he does it, Jones is reminiscent of former Texas A&M Aggie and current Denver Bronco Miller. Miller loved to attack opposing offensive linemen in college the same way as Jones. Get up field in an effort to get the blocker off balance and then decide on how to approach the play. Miller might have been a better pure pass rusher coming out of college, but Jones is a better run defender. And Jones projects best to the role Miller is playing in Denver’s defense. Both players bring a ton of passion to the game of football and if a team gets in Jones what the Broncos have in Miller, they will have a franchise cornerstone and superstar.
There could be some paralysis by analysis with Jones and teams should simply look at his dominance and his ability rushing the passer and playing the run and just hand in the card and move on. There are times when he absolutely takes over the game and becomes the most dominant player on the field that make him appear like a slam dunk. However, when it comes to projecting him to the NFL, the question is how much better can get and whether or not he is maxed out. A maxed out Jarvis Jones still might be a fantastic NFL player. The other question is the stretches where he sometimes disappears and why single tight ends can sometimes shut him down as well as the lingering medical questions. Jarvis Jones could end up the best pass rusher in the draft and make these concerns look like nitpicking in hindsight, but nevertheless, with such a competitive field at the top of the draft in terms of franchise pass rushers, it could be a slim margin that determines the sixth pick in the draft as opposed to fifteen. The medical question most of all could have the biggest impact on his draft stock, but the small concerns could add up if deemed credible, which is why his draft range is so large; likely ending up between five and seventeen.
Boise State 2011
Kentucky & Tennessee 2011
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