Pittsburgh Steelers former first-round draft pick Jarvis Jones is in the midst of a pivotal season that will help determine his future, in part because the team has to decide during this offseason whether or not to pick up his fifth-year option.
While it has been more difficult for him to make a great impact while splitting reps—he has seen the fewest snaps among all the team’s outside linebacker—he has unquestionably shown growth, even if it has not always shown up on the stats sheet. How much growth, and whether or not it’s enough, is a more subjective discussion.
Against the Seahawks, the third-year linebacker registered just one assist officially, though the tape shows that his impact on the game was greater than indicated.
He put together a pair of nice plays to help end Seattle’s first drive, for example, first on second and 15, and then on third and 12. On the first play, he simply did was he was supposed to as the back side defender on a running play, protecting against a cutback while working inside to get in on the tackle, which he did. It’s not a glamorous but a necessary play, especially given the down and distance.
That play set up the team’s first sack, which culminated in a meeting at the quarterback, though Cameron Heyward was officially credited as the tackler on the play. For his part, Jones showed strength and bend around the edge against the left tackle, beating the lineman and joining several of his teammates in putting Russell Wilson to the ground.
Early in the second quarter, Jones was the back side defender on a run similar to the first play looked at. To my eyes, he was able to bring the runner down by the feet on second and 10, but was not even credited with an assist on the play.
Two plays later, on first and goal from the nine, however, he did not look good away from the ball on a running play against the left tackle, whom he allowed into his chest. The lineman was able to control him for the length of the play, though perhaps he was holding on a bit—something that he did a handful of times to Jones during the game, in fact.
After the six-yard run, Jones again was the back side defender and was this time the first player to make the hit on the back, who was stopped short of the goal line.
Later in the quarter, on a first and 10 play inside the red zone, Jones put down a bad rep in the pass rush against Okung, the above two plays easily his worst two of the evening, and among the worst he has had this year. The left tackle gave him a shove that sent him off balance as he tried to bend the corner, resulting in him going to the ground as the Seahawks threw for a touchdown.
Still, Jones would come back at Okung before halftime, nearly sacking Wilson after beating the lineman around the edge and chasing the quarterback from behind. He forced Wilson to throw the ball away, which drew an intentional grounding play—essentially a sack without the statistical acknowledgement.
Early in the fourth quarter, on the play in which Jimmy Graham was lost for the season, is one of multiple example of Okung getting grabby with Jones up the arc. The left tackle clearly had at least his right arm draped across the pass rusher’s back.
The Seahawks got into the end zone again three plays later, again on a play in which Okung may have gotten overly grabby. It seemed as though Jones had won up the arc, and Okung hooked his shoulder as he was turning the corner, causing him to lose his footing. Were the game more tightly officiated, he should have had a bigger impact on the result.