By Matthew Marczi
Jarvis Jones got his first start in a few weeks since being demoted because LaMarr Woodley was forced to sit out the game with an injury. He only played sparsely, and occasionally in specialized roles, in the interim, so it is difficult to draw conclusions about his progress from that.
He played just about the entire game against the Lions though, and while he clearly is still raw, particularly as a pass rusher and in coverage, he does seem to be more comfortable and more assignment-friendly.
The more comfortable he gets, the freer he is able to play, which will translate, theoretically, to impact plays. Perhaps we got a glimpse of that with a pair of batted passes, which were reportedly a frequent sight in training camp.
The first of two came late in the second quarter. Jones started out rushing wide before peeling back, with Cameron Heyward rushing the edge instead. Jones cut back in front of the pocket and stepped into Matthew Stafford’s passing lane, getting his hands up and nearly intercepting the pass from just five feet away.
That was his assignment, and he executed it faithfully. Another assignment that he was frequently given against the Lions was a pass rushing stunt, lining both outside linebackers on the same side of the line. The Steelers ran this multiple times with success, this time for a sack.
Jones lined up wide, with Jason Worilds lined up to his inside. They both moved away from each other at the snap, with Jones drawing the left tackle wide before cutting inside, causing him to follow, which allowed Worilds to spin to the outside of the line around the left tackle, resulting in the sack.
Jones had a great game against the run against the Chicago Bears earlier this season, but since then has struggled. He looked good at least on this play, shedding the left tackle in order to peel back and make the stop after a modest gain.
Jones got a chance to finish off his day with yet another batted pass. This time the outside linebackers lined up on the left side together, but did not run a stunt. Jones just worked to push the pocket against the right tackle, watching Stafford’s eyes and timing his jump in order to deflect the ball. These are the types of plays Jones will be expected to continue to make as he works himself back into a full-time starting position.