By Matthew Marczi
In the first professional game of his career in which he could call himself a winner, Pittsburgh Steelers rookie outside linebacker Jarvis Jones certainly had an up and down afternoon. At times, he showed some things that he had not before, both positively and negatively, but this article will focus on the negative.
Earlier this season, I highlighted some of Jones’ excellent work in the run defense, and how he used his quick first step to cut inside a blocking tight end to get into the backfield. Perhaps this tendency has been on tape long enough for it to be on opposing teams’ scouting reports, because the New York Jets exploited this multiple times throughout the contest, and he ends up looking like a rookie. Take his first snap of the game, for example.
Here, he bites hard on a play fake by Geno Smith, faking the handoff but keeping it himself. With Jones pursuing the back, Smith has nobody in front of him for nine yards. As the edge defender, Jones cannot sell out so easily. He has greater responsibilities than that.
This time, Jones simply gets turned aside by tight end Jeff Cumberland on a carry in his direction. This would have been a good time for one of those inside moves. To be fair, however, Jones was not the only issue on this play, with Troy Polamalu taking a noncommittal stance to any particular assignment and both inside linebackers taking the same gap, though the hole opened in the middle of the defense could have been large enough for three. Later, in the second quarter, his rookie teammate bails him out of a jam.
Jarvis Jones gets caught overcommitting here, and by the time he realizes that the quarterback kept the ball rather than handing it off to Bilal Powell, it is too late for him to adjust and get his body turned to get anywhere near Mike Goodson. Fortunately for him, Vince Williams read the play properly and was able to put a stop to it—with Lawrence Timmons pitching in—after a short gain.
At last, we have Jones simply whiffing on a tackle for a loss that, as a result, goes for an 18-yard gain. His approach is too tight against the line, which makes it easy work for Goodson to cut back, and with the edge clear, he has daylight for a first down and more, with the secondary left to bring him down.
As mentioned in the beginning of this article, however, Jones had his ups and downs, and these were his downs. He had some of his best work as a pass rusher after this carry, and we will be looking at some of the positives from this game tomorrow.