According to Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert, outside linebacker Jarvis Jones was one of those special players in a draft that when you have a chance to take you run up to the podium to get the pick in before something goes wrong.
But Jones would be the first to tell you that he didn’t play much like a special player at all during his rookie season, and he’s looking to fix that in year two.
He spoke to the team’s website yesterday about the difficulties of his rookie season and what it’s like for rookies coming into the NFL, in addition to talking about what he intends to do to become a better player this offseason.
“We come in here every week and have to learn what we are doing and then you have to learn what the opposing team is doing,” said Jones of the biggest adjustment as a rookie. “It’s a lot of information. It’s hard for a rookie. The mental stage is what gets us. There is so much to learn. People expect a lot out of you, they want you to do a lot and be productive. It’s a process for the rookies.
“There was a lot of mental growth. People don’t see the mental part of the game on this level. They just see the physical part, the big hits, guys outmuscling each other, but the mental part is so much tougher to grasp.”
It’s a struggle for every rookie to adjust to playing against other professionals and leading a professional life both on and off the field. You’re in a new environment surrounded by all new people, likely speaking a different language as far as play calling and scheme goes.
But now that Jones has gotten a taste of life in the professional ranks, he’s ready to attack the offseason to become a better player and get past a trying rookie season, about which he expressed disappointment in his lone sack:
There were a lot of sacks out there I was capable of making that I didn’t make. Those are the small details of this game of football. It’s a game of inches. I was disappointed. It drives me and will be motivation for this offseason.
He also discussed his plans for the offseason and how he’s looking to build off what he did manage to do well in his first season:
“There is always room for improvement,” said Jones. “As much as you can learn, you have to take advantage of the offseason, know what to expect, prepare for. Taking advantage of the offseason, going over the things I need to learn. This offseason will be great for me to continue to learn the playbook and ask questions.
“I want to work on physical conditioning, building strength. The mental part I want to become a student of the game. I don’t want to go out there and just play, but understand the game of football as far as formations and tendencies. This offseason I want to hone in on the mental part of the game so when game time comes I can look at the formation and know what’s going on and not wait for somebody to tell me. It will help me play faster.”
These are certainly the things that fans and coaches alike want to hear out of Jones, the 17th overall pick from a year ago. Strength was definitely a problem for him last season, particularly in the pass rushing game, where too many times he would be easily pushed up the arc. With greater strength and better understanding of tendencies, he should come into next season with more counters and not be so easily taken out of the rush.
His desire to intuit formations and tendencies is also critical in his ability to be an impact player. The less you have to think on the field, the quicker you can play and react. Jones has the potential to be a dynamic and impactful player, and we saw glimmers of that during his rookie year. It seemed to be on an upward trend as the season ended, so he needs to pick up where he left off last year.