If things go like many expect they will Friday night, Pittsburgh Steelers fourth-year outside linebacker Jarvis Jones will make his 2016 preseason debut against the New Orleans Saints. Because of that, I have chosen Jones as this week’s defensive spotlight player of the week.
Jones, who has reportedly been dealing with a back issue for several weeks which ultimately led to him missing quite of bit of practice during training camp and the team’s first two preseason games, is now entering a contract year after the team decided not to pick up his fifth-year option earlier in the offseason. That decision wasn’t a huge surprise, however, as the team’s former first round draft pick enters 2016 with just 5 career sacks in the 36 regular season games that he has played in as a professional.
After playing just 40.9% of the Steelers total defensive snaps last year during the regular season, Jones is expected to play more in 2016, if you believe the comments made by several of the team’s coaches over the course of the last few months. While Jones has shown great improvement in his ability to set the edge against the run since first coming into the league, his pass rushing ability still leaves a lot to be desired.
Assuming Jones does indeed play Friday night against the Saints, and we all hope that he does, he’ll likely get quite a few snaps at right outside linebacker and thus have several opportunities to go against New Orleans starting left tackle Terron Armstead, who according to Pro Football Focus, ended the 2015 season as their third-highest-graded tackle in the league. Armstead reportedly run-blocked extremely well last season in addition to allowing just 20 total pressures. In other words, he should be a great test for Jones Friday night in New Orleans at the Superdome.
A poor showing Friday night by Jones certainly won’t provide the Steelers coaching staff much in the way of belief that the Georgia product can handle the huge amount of playing time they seemingly expect him to have in 2016. He needs to start turning the proverbial corner quickly as a pass rusher starting Friday night.
If anyone one player on the Steelers defense needs a preseason tune-up game, it’s Jones and everyone should keep a close eye on him against the Saints. After the game is over, and assuming he did indeed play, we plan on breaking down his play for you in a forthcoming post.