There seems to be no shortage of criticism for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ other recent linebacker drafted in the first round, Jarvis Jones. The second-year edge rusher is coming off a frustrating rookie season that he’s understandably sick of talking about, hoping that experience and strength training would lead to a more productive year two.
Jones was able to flash some in the Steelers’ preseason opener, including a sack using a nifty inside move on the left tackle, but he had to sit out the second preseason game with a groin injury. That groin got a workout against the up-tempo offense of Chip Kelly and the Philadelphia Eagles last Thursday.
While he certainly did not have a great game, nobody on the defense did, and I might go so far as to argue that Jones had one of the better performances of the night for the unit. He had his ups and downs, of course, but it was far from the disheartening display some seemed to find it.
Jones’ run defense in particular held up well for the most part. On the early tackle by Lawrence Timmons for a five-yard loss that helped stop the Eagles’ first drive, for example, it was in part Jones preserving his gap that allowed the inside linebacker’s penetration.
On the Eagles’ second drive, LeSean McCoy was able to cut back for a big gain, but it was Jones bowling tight end Brent Celek into the running back’s face that made him cut back upfield in the first place. That the left side of the defense failed to contain the backside is not his fault.
Later on in the drive, the Eagles’ other tight end, Zach Ertz struggled to absorb his bull rush. Combined with the pressure on the other side from Jason Worilds, quarterback Nick Foles was forced to try to rush his throw. Worilds got a hand on the quarterback’s arm, and Jones wrapped him up and took him to the ground on the incompletion.
The drive ended seemingly with a blown assignment and slow reaction from Jones leading to a 23-yard touchdown reception on a running back screen, but it’s difficult to determine who is truly at fault. The Eagles set up in a shotgun alignment with a wing back on either side of Foles.
Jones appeared to be shadowing Jordan Matthews lined up to the right of Foles, who motioned left just prior to the snap. The problem is that safety Mike Mitchell was doing the exact same thing standing right behind Jones. I can’t say who should have had which coverage assignment, but considering Mitchell was behind Jones and could see what he was doing, he should have been the one to compensate.
Jones caught a break late in the first half when he drew a coverage assignment on Darren Sproles. He was slow getting his hips turned, and then he made the mistake of turning back to the quarterback and stopping his run. This allowed Sproles to gain easy separation, but the ball was overthrown.