Numbers Crunch: Projecting Jarvis Jones’ Sacks In 2014

By Alex Kozora

Clearly, there are players that enter each year more under the microscope than others. Ones expected to make that leap and provide a substantial impact from one year to the next. One Pittsburgh Steelers player that will be examined closely in 2014 is outside linebacker Jarvis Jones.

You don’t have to be Greg Cosell to figure out how mightily Jones struggled as a pass rusher during his rookie season. Some circumstances didn’t favor the rookie, but one sack, which came against a running back no less, in 406 opportunities isn’t going to cut it. Entering year number two, the pressure for Jones to produce is immediate. So how do 3-4 edge rushers in the past compare from their first season to their second season?

Dating back to the 2004 NFL Draft, I compared the first and second year sack numbers of outside linebackers taken in the first round, 19 players in all. The data is below.

PlayerFirst YearSecond Year
M. Ingram11
C. Jones6.511.5
W. Mercilus67
N. Perry24
V. Miller11.518.5
A. Smith1419.5
R. Kerrigan7.58.5
B. Graham35.5*
J. Hughes01
A. Maybin00
B. Orakpo118.5
L. English23
R. Ayers01.5
C. Matthews1013.5
V. Gholston00
A. Spencer31.5
K. Wimbley115
D. Ware811.5
S. Merriman1017

*Graham missed most of 2011 recovering from a torn ACL, the 5.5 sacks are reflected in 2012 instead

It’s certainly not harmful to include the outside linebackers that were successful right away and plenty appear on this list. Of the 19, 52.6% recorded 6 or more sacks in their rookie year. 26.3% of them reached double-digits.

But that isn’t terribly helpful in determining Jones’ potential success. Instead, it’s simply telling you what you already know; and that is it was quickly evident those guys could get after opposing quarterbacks.

It’s astounding to see the lack of “middle” ground here. Ten linebackers had six or more sacks their rookie season; the rest had three or less.

So what about the players that didn’t put up gaudy sack numbers? That’s what is important here.

Of the ones in that latter category, here’s how their second-year sack numbers improved from their first.

Ingram: No Change

Perry: +2

Graham: +2.5

Hughes: +1

Maybin: No Change

English: +1

Ayers: +1.5

Gholston: No Change

Spencer: -1.5

It’s worth pointing out that both Melvin Ingram and Larry English suffered injuries in their second years, as a torn ACL limited Ingram to four games and a foot injury resulted in English playing in just eight.

Even if you were to prorate English’s numbers and give him six, the overall numbers are not promising for Jones. No linebacker that had fewer than three sacks during their rookie season had more than 5.5 in year two. And that’s even on a technicality since Brandon Graham was really in his third year.

No outside linebacker increased his sack total by more than 2.5 sacks and again, that was Graham. It’s obviously not a hard cap, but using that figure as a guide, history says Jones could struggle to surpass 3.5 sacks in 2014.

There are some caveats here, however. Jones has the benefit of playing full-time starting snaps, something I’m not so sure the rest of the group had. Nick Perry logged just 368 snaps on defense in 2013, though injuries also played a factor with him as a foot injury limited him to 11 games.

The sample size is small making generalizations difficult, especially when factoring in the injuries.

Sacks are also a fickle number that aren’t the sole indicator of a pass rusher as knockdowns and pressures can be just as effective.

Even poor numbers in the second year doesn’t seal a player’s fate. Anthony Spencer put up decent numbers from his third year on before breaking out in 2012 with 11 quarterback crunches. Jerry Hughes found the light last year, his fourth season, picking up ten sacks, although that came primarily at defensive end, not outside linebacker.

Let’s reach some conclusions here. Even with the knowledge of those caveats, there’s a lack of strong evidence that outside linebackers who struggle in their first year will make a big jump in their second.

The hope is that Jones touches eight to nine sacks and ideally, that would be wonderful, but I have my reservations. Based on what I’ve seen on the tape and the information this study provides, a realistic number probably lies closer to 5-6.

About the Author

Alex Kozora

Full-time blogger from mom’s basement. Marrying tape and statistics. Chidi Iwuoma is my favorite Steeler of all-time.

  • srdan

    To each his own, and the system matters.

    I’m confident in our starters.

    My prediction is 8.5. I think we have some very good pass rushers all over teh field thus not needing double digits from both OLBs.

  • steeltown

    Well this is discouraging. But as mentioned generalizations are difficult and wont always tell the story. I remain reserved in my opinion with hopes for a productive year.

    I’ll say 6sacks with some other contributions in the form of multiple FF and PDs

  • Burgh Ball

    More concerned re J.Jones in his ability to hold up versus the Run game…

  • falconsaftey43

    I’ve never though Jones would develop into much of a pass rusher in the NFL, but I do think he can be a difference maker against the run. That’s where I expect him to start to shine this year. If he can muster up 3-4 sacks and 4-5 FF with 10-15 TFL, I believe he will make enough of an impact to help this D get back to where it needs to be.


    I think the # is about right and I don’t have a problem with it…I hate to start with another IF, but Tuitt being a key piece…I see this front 7 as potentially being very athletic and the ability to get penetration based on man up skill from the DE position and scheme from the edge rushers and both ILBs.

    On JJ,,,imo was no match for most LTs LY with his straight ahead attack and I don’t expect that to change, but he can work on his moves and quickness…I also have to think being on the side with Heyward will give him more opportunities…I agree with the earlier post…I’m more concerned about him containing the edge vs the run, and making the play in front of him…not expecting him to be a dbl digit sack guy.

  • joed32

    Curious to see what effect Porter’s coaching will Have on JJ’s “moves”.

  • Jason

    He actually played better aganst the run than he did when rushing the passer last seasn.

  • Steelers12328882

    Wow that’s crazy. There really is no middle ground. It’s like you either have it or you don’t and it will be obvious immediately. I still think we shoulda drafted Cordarrelle Patterson last year, but I’m pulling for Jones and I really really hope he’s not a bust like the numbers suggest.

  • srdan

    i thought he did well at that towards the latter part of the year. That part of his game showed improvement IMO

  • mlc43

    I don’t think we will see a lot of improvement from JJ this year. I hope I am wrong but I truly think he isn’t going to work out. Again, I sincerely hope I am wrong but I didn’t see anything from him last year that points to a break out season. I am more excited about our draft picks from this year. Still, I’m rooting for JJ to break out.

  • Chad H

    The 3-4 system needs the majority of sacks to come from the OLBs. We need a combined total of 25 from Worilds and Jones to free up the rest of the D to do what they need to do. If we want another SB win then we need double digits from both of them.

  • ApexSteel

    I knew last year that he would struggle against the run and in pass coverage, but one sack was a surprise. He showed the ability to get pressure at times, but it seemed like that 4.9 made him a few steps late.

  • falconsaftey43

    Unfortunately I think they get a combined 15

  • srdan

    you are wrong. That is mid 2000’s football. Today the offenses are so advanced that you can’t be one dimensional and only get sacks from one area on the field.

    Out of the 4 championship teams only 2 defenders had double digit sacks, chandler jones 11.5 and Phillips 10.

  • srdan

    I’ll take the over, and you wouldnt put money on the under.

  • SteelersDepot

    Looks like from 2004-2013 that there have only been 20 second-year 3-4 outside linebackers that have registered seven or more sacks in a season.

  • My gut feeling is that Jarvis isn’t going to do anything spectacular in his second season. I noticed what Alex was saying while looking at the chart. As far as the chart goes, it appears as if you’re either good a sacking QBs or not so good. I think 5-6 sacks sounds like an accurate prediction. If he doesn’t manage to get at least 5, I’m worried about how that will effect the unit as a whole. Somebody has got to pressure the opposing QB. If Jarvis Jones can at least get 5, then we’re hoping on a Jason Worilds explosion and some well designed blitzes up the middle from Shazier and Timmons. I really hope the feeling I have about J. Jones is wrong. If he can break 8.5 sacks it will definitely be a welcome sight on defense. If he doesn’t completely turn the corner this year, I won’t be holding up a bust sign just yet though.

  • Xclewsive

    I believe there isn’t a better system for a OLB than the Steelers 3-4 defense. I view Jarvis Jones more as a disruptor then I do a pass rush specialist anyway. What has to be taken in account is Joey Porter and how his career started with 2 sacks his first season and 10.5 his 2nd. I expect the same jump for Jarvis Jones

  • Chad H

    Wrong? No, the majority of pass rushing comes from the OLBs. So that’s where the stats should be. To have all pros they need the sack numbers. To win a SB you need the sacks from our OLBs in our system. How do you beat Brady and Manning? Rush the piss out of them. Make them scramble, make them throw quick. I agree you can’t be one dimensional but go back and review the Steelers stats. What position pass rushes the most? LeBeau will always draw up pass rushes from other positions, and I believe we will see a few more from our ILBs this year but the majority will still come from the OLBs.

  • Lil Smitty

    I don’t know what to think of JJ’s sack numbers this year. I don’t think he will catch fire and hit 10+ sacks. With the way that Coach Tomlin and LeBeau talked during the off season and the comments about the Dline, I think the D will emphasize different blitz schemes. This could take away the possibility of big sack totals. He could also benefit from Cam H being on his side and put in a allpro year. I doubt it,but it is possible.

  • Steelers12328882

    Joey didn’t start a single game his rookie year.

  • Jeff

    Here’s some food for thought: Who has more sacks in 2014, Jarvis Jones or Cam Heyward?

    It sounds silly at first, but Cam had 5 sacks last year and wasn’t named the starter until the 5th game of the season… 3-4 DEs aren’t “supposed” to get sacks, but guys like JJ Watt, and hopefully Cam, are bucking the trend. If he continues to progress at the same pace, it’s not crazy to think he could get 8-10 sacks. JMO… Maybe unrealistic, but I like to be optimistic.

    Back to Jarvis… Assuming a healthy 16 game season, I think Jarvis will put up 7-8 sacks this year.

  • Xclewsive

    Jarvis Jones showed signs of a disruptor and playmaker during preseason. But that isn’t acknowledged because it’s preseason.


    3-4 DEs…yeah, by design they’re not, but great players have been able to get penetration…and now I think LeBeau has maybe seen the light (athletic DEs in Heyward and now Tuitt) and changed up the mindset.

  • srdan

    Your argument that the steelers need both to have double digit sacks is wrong. Sacks come from everywhere in today’s football.

    Hayward is the best pass rushing 3/4 DE i have ever seen wear black and gold(im 30). Mitchel by all accounts is a good pass rusher. Shazier is a borderline specialist. I wouldn’t count on Tuitt much this year, but he is a very good rusher as well for his position. I was saying that I don’t expect double digit sacks from both. I think Worldis will do it, but not JJ. But I wouldnt be surprised to get 12 sacks out of the secondary. TIm gets a few every year, and I think shazier will get a few as well. Hayward can get 5 on his own, manimal.

    You arguement that OLBs pass rush the most is correct. But I am not sure how that fits our argument.

  • Big White

    I think he’s good for eight. I’m higher on Jones than many of my fellow Steeler fans. To me the problem with the lack of sacks was on the unit as a whole not necessarily on individuals. I think this D-Line gets more of a push with Heyward full time and Cam Thomas who will flourish a DE. I think the surprise in the sack total comes from Shazier’s ability to close with his speed when the play breaks down. I think Shazier could post 5 sacks just cleaning up plays.

  • James Kling

    With Porter coaching, I’m bumping up my estimate by a full 50%, from 2 to 3!

  • cencalsteeler

    I tend to give rookie defensive guys a break. Talk is always how complex LeBeau’s system is. Furthermore, every rookie talks about how much faster the game is at the NFL level. JJ said he worked on getting quicker and acknowledged he needed to add some more bag of tricks to his arsenal. I, for one, am not sold on sack totals as much as a player making positive contributions which may help generate a sack.

  • Chad H

    First off, back up. My argument was to win another SB. Right now we are suspect in our OLBs and CBs. So if we don’t get pressure from our OLBs our CBs will be exploited. I think your argument is to have a winning season (which I think we will).
    I hope we will see 20 sacks from Worilds and Jones this year, break that down however you want. The last thing is we will never see 12 sacks from our secondary, that is not the Steelers scheme.

  • superfan

    These numbers are discouraging, but if you go back and look at some recent Steelers OLBs, the outlook might be a little better. Clark Haggans – 0 sacks years 1 and 2, then 6.5 in year 3. Jason Gildon – 2 sacks year 1, 3 sacks year 2, 7 sacks year 3. Joey Porter – 2 year 1, 10.5 year 2.

    Now, these players weren’t starters as rookies like Jones was, however, you can see that each improved after a year or two with the squad.

  • srdan

    You are right on the 12, the most we have gotten recently from our secondary was 6. But mitchel had 3.5 last year. We’ll see.

    I think my view on our OLBs is a little different. I think we have one of the better ones in the game in 93 adn an up and coming talented one in JJ with a good coaching staff behind him. Corners I agree with oyu.

    I think the 20 is a good over under for our OLBs. I think it is more of a product of our Dline than them being great or not. If you look at the OLBs production in pittsburgh, it’s only as good as the players in front of them. I am expecting a pro bowl year from Cam, and if Mclendon plays all 16 they would be a very foundation for a good defense.

  • srdan

    I agree. Especially how much faster and better the game is on this level. Tuitt is the first rookie that I saw speak candidly about it. his quote is something like: “everyone is good on this level, its the best guys from college”. I don’t know why more rookies don’t jsut come out and say that is why they struggle.

  • Alex Kozora

    Your last point sums up mine. They didn’t get to start. Jones did. There’s a big difference. Maybe they would have put up respectable sack numbers had they had the chance to start as a rookie.

  • superfan

    Yep, I’m on the same page. And they weren’t first round draft picks either, so they were more likely to need some time to develop. I’m just trying to find a silver lining!

  • Madi

    That concern is SO summer of 2013. He disappointed in what was supposed to be his specialty, the pass rush. He exceeded all expectations and played well against the run. And he should be stronger this year.

  • Madi

    If he plays the whole season, that will be considerably more playing time. And he will be better. I’m not expecting anything too drastic. I think many will still be disappointed. I’m predicting 6.

  • Xclewsive

    You did find the “silver lining” they were late round picks because the Steelers were one of the only teams running a 3-4 defense for years. Joey Porter would of been a first round pick if he came out today. Jarvis Jones was overwhelmed which isn’t uncharacteristic of a a rookie. What works for Jarvis Jones IMO is that he’ll play 12 straight games. So each week he’ll get a chance and I’m pretty sure by the bye week Jarvis Jones will have 5.5-7.5 sacks.

  • Ike Evans

    Yea, comparing first rounders like that is ugly….no way around it. Ive compared all OLB in a 34 that started in 2013 to the jump they made from.yr 1 to 2….even yr 3….its much more promising when u take guys like justin houston or junior gallette etc…etc.

  • Ike Evans

    Depends on the 3-4….rex’s puts more emphasis on DE sacks and DB blitzes to get pressure with a combination of exotic stunts up the middle

  • Jonas

    Let’s just hope that these other athletic guys just had to rush while JJ had to learn the whole postion..

  • steelster

    JJ mentioned how he had problems with the mental aspect of the game as a rookie. I think this really slowed him in the fact that he was always thinking and not using his reaction abilities and instincts as well as he could. Once he gets over this hump the sacks will come. I don’t see it happening until his third year though. A lot of pressure comes from being a first round pick and especially as a steeler lb.

  • Jacque Strappe

    He gets Joe Thomas week 1. So, that’ll be fun.

  • CrazyTerry

    Woodley was a 2nd rounder who got it in a few games.

  • CrazyTerry

    Maybe some QB will fall on his feet and you get an extra sack!!!

  • CrazyTerry

    Let’s face it. This guy will be one of the biggest first round busts in the Colbert era. As big as the Ziggy Hood pick. He wont be terrible like Bruce Davis, but as far as draft value, he will never be worthy of that pick. People called him a steal, but the real people who got fleeced where the Steelers scouts.

  • steelster

    you can tell this after 1 year, come on.

  • Steelers@2010

    I’m not going to be a hypocrite; I didn’t like the pick last year, I simply didn’t think he was worth picking at #18 in 2013. I still think he is too weak and will struggle at the point of attack. Even most Professional Scouts indicated he had a weak frame to be an OLB in the NFL. I hope the kid proves me dead wrong, the Steelers simply do not have any one behind him.

  • Xclewsive

    One way or another somebody is going to be eating crow regarding Jarvis Jones. I don’t know how much of a middle ground there will be.