The Optimist’s Take – Year Two For Jarvis Jones

By Matthew Marczi

For a team facing so much adversity in the past season and heading into the next with a litany of questions to address, it’s natural to consider the issues and how they can either go right or wrong, as well as how they will affect  the broader dynamics and future success of the team, both heading into this season and into the future.

Though not statistically true, it is technically true that every team enters the offseason with the potential to finish the year as the league champion or as the first team on the clock in the next draft.

Some teams have a wider realistic range than others, and I think the Pittsburgh Steelers are one of those teams. Think of them as Schrödinger’s franchise; in February, they are both future champions and future owners of the top draft pick.

In order to gain a better feel for not only the issues facing the team this year, but how those issues might play out, it’s useful to take the devil’s advocate approach. This is the optimistic side of the coin.

Question: What kind of performance can be expected from Jarvis Jones in his second season?

Facing the future of the outside linebacker position quickly crumbling before their eyes, the front office jumped at the chance of drafting outside linebacker Jarvis Jones in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft.

They were so eager to get him into the starting lineup that they did so as soon as he was fully recovered from a late preseason chest bruise. Jones started the second week of the season, and stayed in the starting lineup for the next three weeks.

Following a concussion, he was benched until LaMarr Woodley’s injury problems forced Jones back into the lineup, where he finished starting four of the last seven games. While he had inconsistent success against the run, his pass rushing never developed as it was expected, and he finished with just one sack on the year.

But the flaws in Jones’ game are actually quite obvious. For starters, he has to increase both his upper and lower body strength. Jones spoke about being intimately aware of this while the season was going on, so it certainly should be expected that he will be stronger for the 2014 season.

Another issue in his pass rush is the lack of a proper counter move. Too often, Jones settled for a straight speed rush to the outside, which time and again led to the tackle walking him up the arc and out of the play.

This is an issue that did improve somewhat over time, and he did have a bit more success generating pressure later in the season. But he still needs to learn counters. And who better to teach him than Joey Porter?

Jones had a small handful of impressive games against the run, including a career-high nine tackles in the season finale. He has the skill set to play the run and set the edge from the outside linebacker position. He just needs to show it consistently and stick to fundamentals.

It’s important to stress that Jones played far more, and in a far more critical role, than is typically expected of rookies on defense in Pittsburgh. The Steelers wanted to accelerate his progress, and while it should be beneficial in the long run for the playing time he received as a rookie, he still often played like a rookie.

But he’s not a rookie any more. He’ll be going into his second season now knowing what it’s like to not only play in the NFL, but to start in the NFL, and to go up against the top left tackles in the league, like division rival Joe Thomas.

Jones showed flashes of playmaking ability both in the preseason and during the regular season. He batted down two passes in one game last year, for example, and while he didn’t generate any turnovers during the regular season, he forced a fumble, recovered another, and caught and interception that was negated by penalty. As the game slows down for him, we should start to see this playmaking Jarvis Jones on a more regular basis, and the Steelers won’t be able to keep him off the field.

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.
  • Callentown

    With the likelihood that Worlids plays on the left side and Woodley on the right in 2014, Jones should have an opportunity to continue growing into this role and once Woodley gets injured around the middle of the season, hopefully he’ll be ready to step in and show good progress.

    I believe Jarvis Jones will be the starting ROLB in 2015 after Woodley leaves and will at that point be a strong contributor to a resurgent Steelers defense.

  • steeltown

    Jarvis had a great final game of the season. It was nice to see the improvement. He looks like he has the play making ability, he just needs to get stronger and improve his pass rushing technique. I for one, think he’ll have a strong sophomore year. That said, the organization would be crazy to let Worilds walk.

  • steeltown

    That’s my thinking as well

  • steelster

    The whole 3-4 defense for the steelers is based upon the performance of the outside linebackers. When they apply pressure turnovers happen. Jarvis Jones is the key player for the steelers future. Until he improves the steelers won’t be going to the playoffs. He only had one sack but he has a lot of natural instincts for plays. Once he stops thinking so much and learns the defense I think he is going to be a good player.

  • steelster

    Callentown, the steelers will release Woodley in june of 2014. He is the second highest paid player who is inconsistent and injury prone.

  • cencalsteeler

    Jones has a few things to tweak his game like Matt mentioned. Gaining some size and adding some moves to his pass rushing. IMO, those goals are not out of reach and are actually very attainable. Once Jones does his off season homework, the skies the limit for this kid.

  • blackandgoldBullion

    James Harrison spoiled us. At 240 lbs, sometimes giving up nearly 100 lbs to the LT he went up against, he would often show amazing strength. He did things that were so extraordinary, that we became accustomed to it. I hope that Jones can at try his best to improve for now, gaining strength first and foremost.

    If he does he can become adequate. Later, he still has a chance to become really good, because he does move quite well despite his supposed slow 40 time.

    Joey should be able to motivate him. Either the easy way or with a good swift kick in the ass.

  • Callentown

    Maybe. But since his salary hit would still be large, I think they keep him another year.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    Jones at this point is still not starter material. He did progress but not at a point where I feel comfortable going into next year with where we are at. I hope to see a big jump as most professionals say this is the biggest jump year 1 to year 2…lets hope to see a beast in preseason this coming year.

  • LayDownTheHammer

    I don’t think any of us know what will happen with JJ, but speculation aside, his impact next season and in the future will be weighed on how much he learns with his brain about the run + coverage, as well as how much he physically beefs up. Huge offseason for him as the post-rookie offseason is for everyone.

  • Ike Evans

    Point blank if this kid turns to be above average or a stud then the league better watch out for us again….Jarvis and the offensive line keeping ben healthy those are the keys to our resurgence

  • Steve

    When James came into the league he was a mess. Harrison took himself out of games and was cut numerous times. Actually Jarvis did much better then James did as a Freshmen. If that is any indication of Jones play in the future we will see, but LeBeau made promising remarks about both before they made a Pro Bowl.

  • Steve

    Jarvis’s big problem this year was setting the edge. All too often he let the ball carrier get around him making Big yardage.

  • Nolrog

    I think that’s very unlikely. I don’t think both Worilds and Woodley will be back.

  • Nolrog

    I would argue that the defense is based upon the nose tackle taking up 2 guys, so the DEs could take up another and then the OLBs are freed up to create havoc. We need to find another good solid NT and I think that will help this defense tremendously.

  • Nolrog

    It would be large, but they could push a good portion into next year by making him a post-June 1 cut.

  • Shea Fahr

    I too think they will be able to keep all three…at least I hope they can.

  • WilliamSekinger

    The thing with Jarvis is, he had one move and one move only. Would be great if Joey recognizes this a teaches a spin move. or some kind of counter to the inside. All the tackles in the league have a season of tape on Jarvis and will only see the speed rush. Faking a speed rush to spin or counter back inside might prove very productive for him in his 2nd season.

  • Callentown

    Yeah, yeah.. we’ve all seen the layout. But the Steelers would still have to get Worlids signed BEFORE June 1.

    And while that dead money saved post June 1 moves to next season, he still will count 8Million this season and we wouldn’t even have him. That’s 13.4M over two seasons to not even have the player on the team.

    He could get cut for sure! I’m guessing he won’t.