Finally, it's time to see Jason Jones play in 2011.
First, a refresher of what we've seen in recent days; the focus has been on Jones' play in 2009 and 2010, broken up into a four-part series (Part I, Part II, Part III, & Part IV). He's proven to be a young and intriguing, yet inconsistent player with potentially a very high upside. At 6'5" 276, it seems unlikely that he does his best work inside, but we've seen him most prolific rushing the passer either attacking the A-gaps going right from the left defensive side or being used as part of stunts going both ways.
He has active and pesky hands. His motor is running all the time, capable of pursuing downfield and he's flashed dropping into coverage. He has 37 inch arms and surprising lateral agility for a man with his frame; he's been used a few times standing up as a rusher. He causes turnovers in a variety of ways. He can shoot gaps, win 1-on-1 with inside moves against a guard or center, he can beat the back in protection after beating his first man, too. Sometimes he looks like a giant linebacker, in my opinion. You see him make the 'plus' plays and you get fired up to see more, plain and simple.
A little of the other side. His unusual frame creates an easy target for opposing blockers, which Jones has those 37 inch arms to combat. But, when good offensive players get their hands on that big target he can struggle to shed - that motor, however, keeps him in the play until the whistle. When faced with double teams, combination blocks or slid protection, he can get taken out of the play. If he comes off the ball a bit high against the run, one or two players can take advantage and we've seen him get driven downfield.
Furthermore, he admitted (in Part IV) he isn't as comfortable outside at end - he's played most positions along the line - and we saw a little bit of that at the end of 2010 in the Kansas City game. His combination of speed and power didn't appear to have the same effect rushing the passer at end; tackles have the strength to combat his lack of speed, and big tight ends are able to nearly match his size. At times we've seen him prone to misdirection; sometimes that motor and straight line speed can make up for it.
The description above is adequate but not exhaustive, as I want to get to 2011. I think we see what looks like a different player in some ways. With new defensive coordinator, Jerry Gray – former Seahawks secondary coach -- Jones' primary role changed to defensive end. Furthermore, you will see him used on the right side of the line which is something he did very little of to this point. You'll see him moving backwards more, literally, as well. Jones' terrorizing the inside as a pass rusher is largely a thing of the past; the A-gap is no longer his primary stomping grounds. Some stunts are still involved but to a much, much lesser degree. On we go.
Why this game? Because it's his first game of 2011 and the Ravens provided an interesting test for Jones. Ray Rice is a versatile, slippery back and Joe Flacco could provide the opportunity for some big plays. Plus, the Ravens have an interestingly put together line with size and talent. Jones has one tackle in this one, that's it.
Something new; Jones is wearing a brace on his left knee.
Something else new; Jones is at right defensive tackle with a linebacker on the end.
Below he is on that side again and, working on the massive tackle Bryant McKinnie. Jones fires off the ball and wins, but gets pushed off balance when he tries to work inside. Mckinnie gets both hands on Jones' outside shoulder:
Right away, you see he has trouble in his new role. The play goes the other way, as well. We've seen Jones wreak havoc rushing from the inside on the other team's goal line - Jaguars, 2009 - and here we see him outside as a nonfactor.
Below Jones will be back in a familiar spot on the left B-gap:
See the ball circled between Jones and the defender. Jones got a great jump here. But...
The guard (Marshal Yanda) gains leverage after the initial pop. Also, notice all of the space up the middle for Flacco to stare down the middle. Jones is locked up, but more importantly he was never going inside as we've seen in the past.
Yanda stays below Jones and locks on:
Seven in coverage works here as it's incomplete, but already you see differences in his role with the new coaching staff.
Here we see the tight end get involved. Ed Dickson is standing up and outside of Jones; he'll come down and the tackle drops back:
Everything collapses, Jones sheds Dickson (a smaller tight end) and is involved (but not credtied with) forcing the fumble. Basically; just building the portfolio of Jones against the run and versus various blocking schemes from defensive end.
Now we get to some new, exciting stuff as Jones begins to go backwards. Three examples and some of the variations of him dropping:
He's on the right side on 1st down. He'll take a step forward, plant, and retreat towards the logo:
Eyes towards the quarterback, he sees there is no receiver coming out.
The play goes away from him, but he would have challenged the short route across the middle.
Here we see the Ravens attacking the red zone, inside of two minutes, on 1st down. Jones looks a little bit back of the line:
Forward, plant, smooth backpedal, good depth and in position.
Jones in the middle helps force the check down.
Rice has nowhere to go.
Jones lined up off the left B-gap the next play:
Looking towards the inside receiver.
Fluid big man. Looks like he's playing the hook zone and less in the middle this time. He seems to know the curl isn't coming either.
Since no hook or curl, he plays the seam. He looks in the way...
Strip sack. Leads to a field goal. After those three plays we know more about Jones dropping; he's versatile and looks pretty capable as well. He clearly had an effect defending the short and intermediate middle of the field.
Now we go into the second half and there is a play that satisfies my thirst to see Jones and the slippery Rice. Consider this a two part play.
Like earlier in the game, Jones gets good jump on McKinney, who then gets his hands on Jones. Jones will rip McKinnie's right hand off then try to swim outside. Jones ultimately loses:
Now part two begins. Notice Rice regaining his balance (or maybe he was trying to get lost in the fray...) and Jones is about to spin around:
Jones sees Flacco.
Off we go...
Jones' only tackle of the game. And it was a good one.
These next two plays show Jones attacking the left B-gap with a hard upfield move.
In this first play, notice how Yanda gets Jones caught, upright and simply pushes him off balance:
Jones did pursue on the play.
Next play, snap:
The guard looks split close to the center, protecting the A-gap.
Yanda gets underneath Jones' pads when he tries to come inside.
Yanda wins. Clearly, Jones is not having the same effect but also, the scheme isn't helping him like it did in earlier years.
The last play of the Baltimore game shows Jones in coverage, dropping from left defensive tackle again, but this time there is no dummy rush towards the line as he drops across the formation into the right hook zone:
Flacco sees this and looks the other way.
...out of the way...
...Jones slips and the throwing lane opens...
If not for a great play by the corner to get a fingertip on it, this is a touchdown. Eventually the big man was bound to slip with the four examples of him dropping.
This first game opened the door into the different role we see in 2011. I think one big takeaway here is that we see Jones in coverage; we see his ability to make things difficult on the quarterback when he's dropping away from the passer (and stays on his feet), as his length presents a problem. Another takeaway; Jones is being asked to do different things rushing the passer, and he appears to be struggling in his new roles.
Check back later today for more of Jones in 2011, with few a plays versus Denver and a more detailed breakdown of the Houston game.