By Matthew Marczi
It turns out Jarvis Jones really has a favorite move that he likes to make to defend inside runs, particularly when the opposition puts a tight end on him. They may regret it if they continue to do that, because Jones had an exceptional game defending the run. In fact, he did far better than I was expecting to see.
A common theme sticks out on many of his plays against the run: he likes to quickly crash the inside shoulder of his blocker and simply bully his way into the backfield. Having a strong first step off the ball helps. The Steelers also scheme this move into their system.
On one occasion, for example, in order to shore up the back side, Dick LeBeau had Brett Keisel come off the line from the snap and swim around Jones cutting inside in order to protect the edge. This is, in fact, what happens in the first example, which comes two plays after Ben Roethlisberger’s fumble in the first quarter.
It may be somewhat difficult to see exactly what happens on the play, and in fact there are about four players in on the tackle, with Jones perhaps being the least significant contributor. On this occasion, Jermon Bushrod does a fair job of containing his inside shoulder initially, but Jones gets his back to him and spins off the block in time to be in position to assist on the tackle after just a two-yard gain.
Later, midway through the second quarter, Jones displays his quickness off the ball yet again, this time against the tight end, Martellus Bennett. Bennett can do nothing but go along for the ride as Jones goes after the runner and is in on the tackle after just a one-yard gain.
In fact, this is actually an excellent play for both rookie linebackers, as Vince Williams also makes a great read on the play and penetrates the line to meet his classmate at the ball carrier for a defensive stop. Take notice of his excellent “see-to-do” on the play, as Craig Wolfley would say. I had a difficult time choosing for whom his play should be used to illustrate his quality play, so consider this play a companion piece to my other article about Williams’ play against the run in this game.
Later, in the third quarter, Jones abuses the back side tight end to chase down Michael Bush for no gain on third and one to hold the Bears to a field goal.
On the play, Al Woods does a nice job of holding the point here, not allowing any penetration. Ziggy Hood and Lawrence Timmons help funnel the back to the A Gap as Woods backs the center into him. Williams also lays a shoulder into him to stop his momentum as Jones comes in to scoop him up from behind and drop him. It was an excellent defensive play all around made complete by Jones’ quickness off the line once again.
On the final example, Jones shows his ability to absorb a cut block by receiver Earl Bennett.
On the play, he quickly gets his hands down upon the receiver’s back to absorb most of the impact, and he is able to swim over his back to dive at the legs of Matt Forte and bring him down as though he is roping a pig. Unfortunately, Bennett scored a touchdown on the next play, rendering the effort moot.
No offense to certain beat writers who felt it necessary to excessively praise Jones for a couple of tackles in the backfield in which he came unblocked earlier in the year, but these are the plays for which Jones deserves the accolades. These are the plays that he made, not the ones he was handed.
In all honesty, nobody really expected Jarvis Jones to be able to play this well against the run—at least not this early in his career. That is, of course, the reason that he was given the starting nod as a rookie in just his second game over the veteran Jason Worilds. While his complete skill set as a pass rusher is still in development, it is very encouraging to know that Jones should not be a liability in run support.