2009 Season Retrospective: Julius Jones

Julius Jones

2008

Highlights

Rams at Seahawks

Matt Hasselbeck ran play action, Justin Griffith released into the flat, the line pulled left and Julius Jones submarined unblocked end, Leonard Little. It was the beginning of a nifty little designed pass, but it ended with a familiar flub. Hasselbeck reset and threw a pass to Griffith. The ball hit him as he was breaking, but hit his back shoulder, against his momentum. Griffith jumped, kicked, twisted and attempted to reroute, but the delay was too much and David Vobora closed and knocked him out after one.

...

The final note before I get back to watching my Huskies hold their own against Pete Carroll's demoted NFL squad regards Julius Jones' touchdown rush. Credit goes to Jones who turned a pretty typical stretch right into a 62 yard touchdown. Justin Griffith hit the hole but struggled to clear trash from the rush lane. Clifton Ryan was bullying Steve Vallos and the initial hole was all but closed when Jones arrived. Jones faced his left shoulder and got skinny, juking through the hole. He landed, exploded into his second gear and turned a couple modest lead blocks into a break away into the third level. Once upon a time, Jones had a third gear to rival almost anyone in the NFL, but enough is left that he's still a breakout threat. If he can consistently transition a field move into a second gear burst, he could regain his big play potential.

Seahawks at Cowboys

Spencer got revenge. He forced back Ratliff and turned him allowing Julius Jones to cutback left and rush for six. Seneca Wallace handed off to Jones on the next snap and Jones glided for seven. Seattle had escaped jail, was first and 10 on the 29, and after keeping beat for a string of snaps, was about to punctuate the action with a series of big plays.

...

The drive never recovered from its first big attempt. Matt Hasselbeck targeted John Carlson and nearly threw an interception to Gerald Sensabaugh. Justin Griffith motioned out of right trips to fullback and Julius Jones picked his way up the middle for ten. Part of Griffith's value is that he guides Jones where to rush. On a previous run I didn't detail, Griffith and Jones started slight-right, but Griffith circled wide left and Jones followed. It was the right read and Jones ran for six.

Seahawks at Cardinals

Julius Jones cashed in on an inside draw. Max Unger was run through and Jones had to bull and spin through a tackle in his own backfield. Spencer and Rob Sims had fought back the defensive right and Jones cut left and into space for the touchdown.

Lowlights

Rams at Seahawks

Jones ran off right end. Owens effectively sealed the inside. Burleson and Carlson moved into the second level and both did an excellent job lead blocking. Jones second gear betrayed him, and he didn't slingshot around the end. I think Seattle invests in a speed back this next offseason. Jones can turn the corner, but he doesn't break away when he does. The run went for seven.

...

The other is again on Jones. He turned the corner but didn't hit the hole with much speed. I think maybe Jones hasn't become fully confident in the system and is still a little hesitant picking his rush lane. I don't think he's slow.

Seahawks at 49ers

3. Julius Jones picked the inside hole on a stretch right and allowed right outside linebacker Parys Harlson back into the play. He should have run right and away from the unblocked Haralson.

...

  • The next play was almost something special. I was critical of San Francisco signing Justin Smith, but he has been very productive. He gets a hand on Jones that stops him from breaking a long gain.
  • Seattle resorts to a stock formation: A wide receiver on each side, Carlson right and the back in "I" formation. The Niners set in a 3-4. Off the snap, Steve Vallos and Max Unger power Aubrayo Franklin out of middle and deep into the second level. This was a matchup they were regularly winning. Griffith hits the hole, cuts right and runs through Patrick Willis. Both end on the turf. Jones is about to hit the hole. The outside linebackers are attacking the edges and functionally out of the play. Ted linebacker Spikes is screened out by Vallos and Unger's dominant double team. Willis is about to get knocked on his ass. The secondary is playing pass. Rob Sims has engaged and stopped Smith, but he battles on just outside the hole. Jones explodes through the hole, but before he can fully exit, Smith gets a hold of his jersey. Jones spins through the tackle but can't keep his feet under him and spins to the ground. Nate Clements is the first to touch and is credited with the tackle. Inches, man. Smith doesn't get a hand on him, Jones is free to the third level.

Seahawks at Colts

1. 1-10-SEA 41 (13:08) (Run formation) 22-J.Jones right tackle to SEA 42 for 1 yard (56-T.Hagler)

Willis drives out and seals the right edge, but Julius Jones cuts inside and into the unblocked linebacker. This is where we talk about Jones not seeing holes.

Seahawks at Cowboys

Griffith was out for Jones next rush, and Jones misread his blockers and effectively tackled himself. The play was a pitch right. Seattle's blockers swooped to the right and attempted to create a long lane to the right flat. Spencer was beat back at the snap. John Owens blocked in and did his best against left defensive end Marcus Spears, but was blown back by play's end. Right tackle Ray Willis released into the right flat.

Jones picked his way towards right end, but cut in and into the teeth of Dallas' defense. He ran into Spears and struggled to get back to the line. The best explanation I can offer for Jones cutting in when the play was designed to be run right, is Jones was minimizing damage. He saw the beaten blockers and decided to avoid a costly tackle for a loss. He had space in the right flat, but didn't take it.

Lions at Seahawks

Seattle had run twice and twice Julius Jones ran into his blockers attempting to find a hole. The interior offensive line was not creating push and, for whatever reason, the Lions linebackers where charging the line. They did not expect Seattle to pass. Matt Hasselbeck finally did pass, but it was a short pass to Justin Forsett and Forsett did the man's working, breaking two tackles to put Seattle within one.

On fourth and one, the Seahawks piled their linemen up and motioned their third tight end in to play fullback. The Lions were standing atop each other to attack the middle. Jones received the snap and ran into a wave of bodies. He wasn't even close.

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The Lions dinked and dunked their way into, out of and back into field goal range. Before the failed first down attempt, Seattle had but an 11% chance of winning. After the field goal, Seattle had an 11% of winning. The field goal had done little but cash in the field position Seattle had ceded after failing to convert. It underscores just how aggressive coaches should be on fourth down that even a poor decision, poorly planned and poorly executed, didn't bury a team already down 14 in the first. But it was a bad decision and the execution made it worse. Sometimes a coach needs to step back, not consider the game in a global sense, but as it's unfolding, the individual matchups won and lost, punt the damn ball and allow the defense a chance to rally.

49ers at Seahawks

The entire Seahawks line surged left and Spencer blew back Aubrayo Franklin. Unger never got a chance. The cutback lane tore open to the offensive right, but Julius Jones skipped the hole and hit the pile. The run went for two.

...

Chris Spencer teamed with Unger to blow back McDonald three yards and allow Spencer to pull and pop the next man in his way. It was a ripping hole that vanished. Jones missed the cutback lane, the cutback lane closed an instant later, and Jones sunk his shoulders and smashed into the pile as he's wont. Willis was credited with the tackle after two. It's a shame for such a pretty block to go wasted, but it's progress.

Outlook: Jones kind of bores me and so I do not write a ton about him. A lot of his highlights and lowlights were found in pieces I ran about various members of the offensive line. Detailing whether Jones broke an arm tackle or saw the hole or showed a proper second gear was mostly done to separate the lineman's performance from the back's. That is a difficult task. One I can only approximate with careful study and one, frankly, I do not think is approachable without careful study. And so, when people tell me Jones is terrible, I just sort of shrug.

Jones is not terrible, and that assessment always centers on one quality, his rushing skills. He is not terrible but he is unforgiving, and seemed more unforgiving in 2009 than he was in 2008. Let me try to piece out what I mean by that.

A back, every back, depends on his line to an extent. The first portion of a run is to and into the hole. Some backs are so quick, or so able to power through blockers, or have such amazing vision, that they can thrive behind even substandard run blocking lines. By those basic measures, Jones is reasonably quick into the hole. He is not particularly gifted at powering through tackles but he has some fight. His vision was a real problem in 2009. Jones didn't take to zone blocking.

After sprinting into the hole, a back attempts to run through and to daylight. This requires many of the same basic skills: acceleration, power and vision, but also moves, ball security and anticipation. I am not wild about Jones' ability to hit his second gear and I think that limits some of the good looks he sees. He isn't a moves back, for sure. Ball security seems decent, but not a strength. Regarding anticipation, Jones mostly just runs forward for what is there.

From there, you have the matter of maximizing the rare look at the third level. Jones isn't Chris Johnson, but he has some get away speed.

Jones is not terrible, but he is a bit demanding. He isn't quick enough through the hole to evade backside pursuit and that was a constant problem in 2009. Therefore, Jones needs a proper cut block and Seattle didn't deliver. Jones does not break a ton of arm tackles and so he needs a clean, fairly wide hole to run through. Seattle struggled to provide him that as well. He doesn't beat people in the open field and so he tends to take what is given.

Seattle ran 1,045 offensive snaps and I estimate Jones was in for about 500 of them. He ran the ball 177 times and was targeted on a pass 43 times. If his offensive line was good, he has enough juice as a rusher that Jones would probably be thought of as underappreciated. He would post decent rushing numbers, decent receiving numbers and continue all the stuff that happens in the 300 or so snaps no one notices: blocking and running solid routes. Julius would be Thomas.

But he doesn't and he isn't and so he Julius Jones is thought of as much worse and much more important than he actually is.

Maybe he will enjoy a bit better blocking this season, or maybe he just isn't built for zone blocking. Maybe Jones can still be a valuable complement to Justin Forsett and Leon Washington. Maybe he's cut. I, for one, am just not that concerned about the matter.

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