Surveying the prospects: Jarvis Jones

Kevin Liles-US PRESSWIRE

Jarvis Jones has the athleticism, and knowledge of the fundamentals worthy of a top ten pick. Especially in consideration of his injury concerns, would Jones be a good fit for the Panthers in the first round?

During his career in Athens, Georgia, OLB Jarvis Jones dominated the SEC, showcasing his skills for two seasons, before declaring for the 2013 NFL Draft. For much of the last calendar year, Jones was projected as a top ten, or even top five pick. However, recent reverberations of his spinal stenosis, which ended his playing time at the University of Southern California, could conceivably drop him on many teams' draft boards.

Even still, Jones has been cleared to play by reputable doctors, and has spoken with at least twenty NFL teams thus far.

Just perusing the stats, Jones accrued incredible production at Georgia, despite receiving additional attention from blockers. During his redshirt junior season, Jones averaged over two tackles for loss per game (24.5 in 12 games), and over 1 sack per game (14.5 in 12 games). Although, as we'll see below, Jones isn't limited to sacks and TFL's: in 12 games last season, Jones had 7 forced fumbles.

Entering the NFL, Jones is not going to see double teams, or chip blocks from TE/RB's. He's NFL ready; right away Jones will be able to start, or see significant time coming off of the bench during his rookie season. For a team like the Panthers, who could stand to have better pass rushing depth, a talent like Jones might be too good to pass up.

Now to the tape.

Here is Jones' bread and butter, the speed rush. With good speed and agility, Jones is able to make up for his relatively diminutive stature (6'2" 245 lbs.) and beat offensive tackles to the edge. However, a successful speed rush encumbers good technique; you won't be able to run past offensive tackles.

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In this matchup, Jones (denoted by the red triangle) is lined up outside, as a 3-4 OLB, and will be facing the Missouri LT.

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At the snap, Jones explodes out of his stance, and begins his rush. Jones does a great job of getting his hands up first, which allow him to swat aside the LT's hands. Also take note of his good pad level; when pass rushing, leverage is crucial. By keeping his pads lower than those of his opponent's, and by initiating hand combat, Jones is able to dictate the pace and the nature of his encounter with the LT.

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As Jones displaces the LT's hands, and makes his way past the lineman, he does an excellent job of shrinking his left shoulder --the one facing the LT. By doing this, Jones has given the lineman a smaller surface area to attack, thus minimizing the chance that the LT has in slowing him down. This is top end technique.

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Jones exhibits great acceleration in chasing down the fleeing Missouri QB, and gets the sack, as well as the forced fumble, which gives Georgia the ball inside the Missouri 20 yard line.

Here is another look at one of Jones' speed rushes, this time versus Florida LT Xavier Nixon (73), who projects as mid round pick in this year's draft.

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Once again, Jones is first to strike with his hands.

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Here is a closer look. Jones keeps Nixon's hands from reaching into his shoulder pads, and proceeds with the rush.

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Again, as Jones makes it past the LT, he does a fine job in shrinking his shoulder, and dipping his hips, although Nixon is practically able to take him to the ground. If Jones rushes without shrinking the shoulder, or maintaining decent pad level, it is likely that Nixon takes him out of the play.

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Despite Nixon's best efforts, Jones is able to collapse the pocket in pursuit of the Florida QB, and get the sack.

Naturally, Jones' speed draws concern from many coaches and offensive tackles. Insomuch that Jones' speed rush often attracts penalties. Here is an example from the SEC Championship game versus Alabama; Jones will face off versus RT DJ Fluker.

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A quick aside: here is an opportunity to mention something that I talked about last week in the comments.

This play takes place on first down and ten; a team like Alabama, with a punishing ground game, and a precision passing game could easily run or pass from this situation.

Take a look at all of the Alabama O-Linemen. Each stays relatively close to the turf in a neutral stance, save for the RT, Fluker. Fluker is demonstratively higher in his pad level than every other lineman. With his slow foot speed, Fluker is naturally concerned about being beaten by Jarvis Jones. This little quip informs the Georgia D-Line, or at least Jones, that this play is a pass.

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At the snap, Fluker takes great pains to keep his pads lower than Jones'. Jones though, is able to strike first with his hands, and move his rush inward.

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Jones again, shrinks his shoulders, and shows good bend in his hips. Fluker is about one second away from being beaten.

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As Jones makes his way past Fluker, the Alabama RT makes a desperate grab at Jones, grabbing his facemask. With a poor view of the situation, the referee misses this potential drive killing infraction.

Typically, Jones draws extra attention from opposing blockers. Looking back to 2011, here Georgia is playing Kentucky.

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Here Kentucky will be blocking Jones with their FB, and their RB. This is a strategy that the Panthers use a lot, as it allows the OT and OG to double an interior rusher.

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Jones absolutely explodes off of the line of scrimmage, and does an excellent job of converting his speed into power versus the similarly sized FB. Jones achieves optimal hand placement, and almost literally sweeps the FB off of his feet.

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Jones walks the FB, and the RB (who is now holding him), all the way back to the Kentucky QB. And although the desperate holding from the Kentucky backs will prevent him from sacking the QB, Jones still is able to make a phenomenal play.

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Just as the QB cocks his arm back to throw, Jones extricates one of his arms and strips the ball; another forced fumble, giving Georgia the ball inside the Kentucky red zone.

As I mentioned above, Jones' speed inherently intimidates many opposing tackles. Jones, aware of this, is adept enough to turn this to his advantage with conversion rushes. Here we go back to Georgia's 2012 matchup with Florida.

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In what is either an excellent play call by the Georgia DC, or great instincts from Jones, Georgia blitzes the nickel back on this third down, paying off great dividends. As the nickel back will take a wide approach, occupying the OT, Jones will execute a conversion rush.

A conversion rush is perfect for speed rushers. In a conversion rush, the pass rusher begins his rush as if it were typical speed rush, taking roughly three steps toward the OT. As the OT moves to engage the rusher, the DE/OLB swings inside, moving from the C-gap to the A-gap, or B-gap. It is hoped that the interior offensive linemen have already engaged the DT's and therefore, the DE/OLB will have a free rush to the QB.

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Jones begins his rush, feigning the requisite speed rush.

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Jones then proceeds inward, as the OT, Nixon, moves to help the LG with John Jenkins, and the RB moves to block the DB. The rush is successful; there isn't a blocker between Jones and the Florida QB.

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As Jones makes his way through the A-gap, the LG, and C turn, realizing, in vain, their blunder.

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Jones accelerates, reaching the unsuspecting Gator QB, and makes the sack.

In my opinion, the conversion rush is one of the speed rusher's most valuable tools. Aldon Smith has recognized this as well. As Football Outsiders notes:

Of Smith's 33.5 sacks in his first two seasons, only four of those have came by quickly beating an offensive tackle to the outside.

Jones does make semi-frequent use of conversion rushes, which are quite effective, even when Jones does encounter a blocker, as we see below.

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Here Jones will again use a conversion rush, as Georgia stacks the line, signaling a blitz. (And although this is a third down and long, and the mystery of the play is relatively non-existant, check out Fluker again).

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Jones masquerades the speed rush, and then proceeds inward, however in this instance, C Barrett Jones is fully aware of Jones' presence.

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Jarvis Jones decides to engage Barrett Jones in a bull rush. As is mentioned above, Jones is fantastic at converting his speed and athleticism into power. J. Jones achieves better pad level than the Alabama center, and extends his arms inside of B. Jones' shoulder pads, favorable position. The Georgia pass rusher has won the leverage battle.

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J. Jones drives B. Jones backward, standing the Crimson Tide center up. And despite the fact that B. Jones outweighs J. Jones by at least 60 pounds, J. Jones is able to walk the center backwards two yards, helping to collapse the pocket.

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AJ McCarron is able to get off the pass before J. Jones reaches him, although the Bulldog pass rusher does a super job of stepping into McCarron's passing lane, and obscuring his target by jumping upwards, in an attempt to deflect the pass.

While Jones is unable to make contact with the pass, the ball does fall incomplete, and Alabama is forced to punt.

Of course an elite pass rusher cannot rely on one or two pass rushing moves alone; Jones is no exception. If you're looking for more info about passing rushing moves, here is a post I wrote last year about the subject.

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Looking back to the Florida game, here is an example of Jones executing a spin move against the Florida RT.

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Per usual, Jones operates with good pad level, and strikes first with his hands.

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Jones' superior hand placement, and leverage, allow him to slip away from the RT as he begins the spin move.

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As Jones comes out of his spin, he has completely fooled the RT, who is still facing the sideline. Jones has a free path to the QB. Alas, the Gators have called a screen, and the Florida QB Driskell, will dump off the ball to the RB before Jones reaches him.

Next to his speed rush, and conversion rush, I'd say Jones' top pass rushing move is his rip move.

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Once again, Jones is facing off versus LT Xavier Nixon. Unlike a power rip move, Jones' rip move is more of a continuance of his speed rush.

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As Jones works outside, using the familiar pad level, and dip of the hips and shoulders, he uses his left arm almost as a fulcrum, and lifts Nixon's arm away from his shoulder pads. Note also that Jones keeps his eyes on the QB for the entirety of his rush.

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As Driskell steps up into the pocket, Jones pursues, and gathers his third sack of the game (all of which came from different pass rushing moves). By keeping his eyes on the QB, Jones does not lose sight of the quarterback after he finishes his pass rushing move.

Jones also is knowledgeable in swim moves, which he routinely uses in run defense.

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In this example, from Georgia's game versus Tennessee in 2011, Jones will be matched up against the Tennessee LT.

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As Jones explodes out of his stance, he works outside. After about three steps, he plants his right foot in the ground. The Tennessee LT is prepared for another speed rush, his hands already up.

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Jones changes direction rapidly, and swings his right arm over the outreached arm of the Tennessee LT. The Georgian will use his right arm to push himself past the LT.

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Jones finishes the move, and beats the LT cleanly, forcing the Tennessee QB, Bray, to throw the ball away. This engenders another punt.

Summary Thoughts:

Jones is certainly one of, if not the top pass rusher in this draft. With his athleticism, and near mastery of the fundamentals, as well as a plethora of passing rushing moves, and All-American level production, Jones is ready to make an impact in the NFL.

A 4-3 team like the Panthers would have little difficulty inserting him into the lineup as a third down defensive end, rushing from a two point stance, and as a 3-4 OLB, or 4-3 SLB rushing the passer, in the mold of Von Miller.

Without completely displacing Greg Hardy and Charles Johnson, the Panthers could play Jones roughly 30 snaps per game, while providing the two stalwarts sufficient rest, which will improve the Panthers pass rush. The move also gives GM Dave Gettleman flexibility when dealing with Hardy's contract, which ends at the end of the season. The Panthers, who have well documented cap woes, may not be able to afford to re-sign Hardy.

Obviously, Jones is not a perfect player though. His first step, while good, is not elite. Additionally, Jones does struggle sealing the edge in run defense. Unlike in his pass rushing, Jones does not consistently win leverage battles in run defense, often allowing blockers to achieve optimal hand placement, by striking first, and getting their pads lower than his. While he's not completely bereft of run defense skills, as is evident from his 24.5 TFL's last season, I wouldn't be comfortable leaving Jones in isolation to seal the edge.

Within a year or two in an NFL weight-training program, Jones should be able to add more muscle to his frame, which will increase the potency of his pass rushing moves, as well as his ability to combat the run.

While there is no such thing as a 'sure thing' in the NFL Draft, drafting a player of Jones' caliber, is a much more secure decision than that of drafting a raw wide receiver or a defensive back.

To paraphrase Gettleman, nine times out of ten, when you draft for need you get in trouble. If he falls due to medical concerns, Jones may be too good for the Panthers to pass up.

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