Through the first five games (he missed Week 1) of Jason Jones' position switch in 2011 from primarily a defensive tackle to primarily a defensive end, he had only seven tackles and two passes defensed, both of those coming Week 3 versus Denver. His only sack through five games came Week 4 in Cleveland, when Colt McCoy fumbled and then recovered on the ground, Jones coming over to simply touch him. The last game we saw from Jones was after the bye in Week 7 against Houston, and again he appeared to struggle when playing end against their blocking scheme. I mentioned earlier that Jones looks like a different player around the line of scrimmage; his lack of production to this point reflects that.
The matchup against Carolina in Week 10 will provide the meat for this post, but we'll start with one play in Week 8 against Indianapolis. Jones did not start this game, I don't know why - maybe his lack of production had something to do with it. Well, whatever the reason, it worked; Jones had five tackles, including a sack, and a pass defensed. Because this is not the Peyton Manning Colts, I decided to fully watch other games. First, Jones' sack from this game can be found here. Honestly, it's not a particularly impressive play; the tackle kind of whiffs and Jones easily makes it around the edge (from left defensive end) for the sack. The play I want to focus on is the pass defense.
This play intrigues me for number reasons. We see him lined up on the tight end - "6-tech" - which is something we know he'll do (according to Jones) in Seattle's defense, and notice his head inside. After the snap there is a completely clean release by the tight end, and we see something new for when Jones is lined up outside:
The last time I showed a spin was early in 2010 versus Dallas; he spun inside towards the center and he got absolutely flattened by the double team. Here the spin doesn't fool the tackle, but Jones is able to change his body position and actually work towards the quarteback.
Similar to the example earlier in the week from the Denver game; we see Jones get a paw up while fighting two linemen, tip the ball and cause the interception. It's hard not to like the trend of more interceptions that is emerging with his ability to disrupt passing lanes.
Week 10 2011 at Carolina
Why this game? Rookie Cam Newton was one of the more dynamic quarterbacks in the NFL, and his youth presents an opportunity to see Jones against both good and bad. Also, the Panthers are coming out of the bye and as we saw with the Titans being flat versus Houston after the bye, similar potential exists for the Panthers.
Given that both the focus was run heavy in the last post against Houston and Carolina will be down for the entire game, only rushing 12 times with running backs, the focus is mostly on Newton and Jones.
Technically, this first play doesn't even count due to a penalty away from the play. Since it "didn't" happen I'll let the pictures tell the story:
There's the "+1." Still Carolina's ball.
Right defensive end is where Jones spends the beginning of the game. Below you will see him there again, in the process of a "I know it's bad, but it happened" pass rush (note the bull rush as entered the repertoire):
Jones gets squeezed by the back and tackle...
...loses his footing and goes to the ground.
This next play is somewhat exemplary of what I hoped to get out of watching Newton versus Jones. Jones is lined up on/just inside the tight end and very wide; Newton will take the snap and it's a zone-read:
It's now Jones versus Newton. Check out Jones' feet, on his heels and swaying, compared to Newton primed to explode:
Newton takes off wide and Jones follows as the play goes for a couple...
Good team defense makes up for the fact that Jones got beat, albeit he was in a tough position. He let Newton be the aggressor, which made a difference here. On the whole though, a good play to set up 3rd and long.
Jones gets his first legit sack in 2011 here. It's a beauty, a must watch. We see Jones on a stunt, lined up at right end on the C-gap and he comes all the way back across to the opposite A-gap. The combination of stunts on the other side of the defensive line and fact that the center gets blown back gives Jones room to build up steam, get skinny and explode through; he maintains body control and makes a great effort to ensure that Newton ends up on the ground.
Earlier in the week I said that stunts and his stomping around in the A-gap occurred much less than we'd seen in previous years; I saw this play as kind of a turning point, and from here forward was one of the most stunt heavy games I saw from 2011. Makes sense, as any rookie quarterback (most quarterbacks in general, actually) doesn't like "confusing" pressure coming up the middle. The point; it appeared some new wrinkles were being worked into the defense for Jones, accentuating some of his previously shown strengths.
The play below is a similar call, but check out the adjustment by Carolina when one of the defensive ends drops:
There are three Carolina players noticing Newton could get nailed, and thus are waiting for Jones...
Deangelo Williams goes low and they all converge. I think it's impressive that a defensive lineman coming on a stunt can draw three players to take him out. It provides a lot of room for other players to get to the quarterback, one-on-one with the offender. Here, the mobile quarterback was able to escape and it didn't work out so well.
Watch Jones unsuccessfully spin inside on the rush and then unsuccessfully chase down Newton here. Again he has two hands on the ground pre-snap and this play provides a nice contrast to the spin move we saw against Indianapolis. Also, it's an example of Jones taking a poor angle, which helped keep the play alive - Newton gains about 15 yards after Jones dives and misses. Since we've seen him make a lot of good plays downfield to this point, it's a warranted contrast.
We move into the third quarter and see the hard-charging bull rush work against Jones. He'll take on the tackle, but notice how the screen develops right around/over him:
Jones pursues downfield after he recognizes the ball going right over him. Ideally, Jones would recognize that the back leaked out of the backfield and behind him, and Newton is looking the other direction perhaps waiting to the last moment to come back and make the throw. This would've been a tough play for Jones to make, as he was committed to the rush; at least he kept with the play the entire time, but here you see aggressiveness working against him.
There is not much to the next one. Notice both hands down, the bull rush, wading through traffic and the recovery that helps get the defense off the field. Here aggressiveness works for him:
Newton makes the smart choice...
...avoiding Jones at all costs.
Let's move ahead to the end of the third quarter, where we see another example of Jones being a force in coverage and messing with the rookie. Lined up inside the tight end, he'll drop facing the middle, then turn to the hook zone and blanket his man:
Notice up top with two receivers are pretty well covered. Over the next couple of frames you will see how the combination of tight coverage on the receivers and Jones in coverage renders this play dead, as now he takes away the seam:
Scramble, throw-away. Note that I've shown two examples from this game where Jones has dropped in coverage on second down. We have a phantom interception and a throw-away. Not bad.
The final example from the Carolina game shows Newton getting a little bit of revenge for the play above. Jones will drop facing outside this time, then settle inside:
The receiver coming underneath will make Jones move a little, opening the window for Newton to fire a dime over where Jones was previously standing:
A heckuva' throw. The reason I show this play is because we've seen Jones drop in the coverage a lot at this point, especially considering the perception of him is as a defensive tackle/defensive end. Clearly, he can have a major presence and here we see a slight nuance that can make or break a play. Really, this is a very small "mistake" and Jones was following the crossing receiver in his zone; may not have been a mistake, at all. The end result, however, took advantage of his movement. Take away from this that Jones makes it hard for even the tallest quarterbacks to find lanes downfield, and Jones was attacked by the offense in setting up a bigger play. Even when he loses, he's a factor.
On the whole, it was nice to see Jones once again terrorizing inside. Also, the two-handed bull rush from the outside was much more prevalent in this game than I've seen at any time in the past. One downside to take from this game; we saw Jones struggle a bit reading misdirection and slower developing plays around the line of scrimmage. We continue to see him be hit or miss in this area, but the motor runs until the whistle regardless. Even though it doesn't show up on the stat sheet next to his name, his motor makes things happen.
Week 12 2011 vs. Tampa Bay
Hard-nose bonus footage to finish up. Initially I did not plan on looking at this game, but the fact that he had four tackles and forced a fumble drew my attention. Also, it's an extremely sloppy and tough game in the rain; the two teams combined for nine turnovers. For Jones in particular, this game shows grit and intensity that I'm excited about; we get to see him make impact plays late in the fourth.
But first, his forced fumble on the second play of the game is here. You see the play go right at Jones (at right end), who then gets blocked out and LeGarrette Blount cuts inside; then Jones tracks downfield and makes a big time play. A minus turns into a plus.
This next one is against a screen, here. Notice him lined up left of the center; Jones uses an excellent swim move to get across the center and then he blows by the guard, on his way towards the quarterback. Notice the fake end-around action keeps Jones charging hard up field towards the quarterback, and seemingly unaware of the screen developing to his left. The plus is he almost completely blows this play up, the negative is that he doesn't and because the play goes unrecognized by many and Blount hurdles a guy, it goes for a big gain.
Here we see more of Jones defending the backside against the zone-read, with Josh Johnson at quarterback:
Jones is left free and is the outside contain man.
Notice how the linebackers are sucked in by the fake. I think a good play would be not letting Johnson get into space. A great play would be if Jones commits and is able to take down Johnson behind the line - a more risky decision given the plethora of space behind - or if he is able to force the play inside towards his help. Again, the main goal is to contain Johnson.
Johnson is the aggressor, taking off towards the edge with his 4.6ish speed. But, Jones is able to stay with him and keep a decent carry from becoming a bigger play. Personally, I think this is a play you could look at a variety of ways, the main purpose being to build his portfolio of instincts plays on the edge. Could have been worse, also could have been better. Still, we see Jones is pretty athletic for his size and frame.
Now we get to crunch time, the fun part. Notice the Titans are up three and Tampa Bay is driving. Check out how Jones beat his man and the rest is history:
Blount is a strong runner. Good play by Jones.
Josh Freeman throws a pick on the next play.
After a Tennessee field-goal, Tampa gets the ball back needing a touchdown. 55 yards in six plays (and about a minute) gets Tampa to here; running to the line on 4th down with no timeouts and the game on the line. Everyone sets quickly and notice Jones on/near the center:
Freeman fumbles! Where is Jones?
Right in the middle of the fray and taking charge, as he's been since before the snap...
...keeping Freeman behind the line and eventually the play is blown dead. Tennessee ball, lead protected, game over. I love seeing Jones right in the middle of things at crunch time. And when Jones is on, he can be a beast against the run. Also, two 4th down stops in short yardage in the last two posts. Gotta' like that, right?
To quickly sum up this post; we see Jones' role evolve a bit more towards his old role, spending more time lined up inside and being used on inside stunts. But at the same time, we see him continue to be featured in coverage in the Carolina game when lined up as an end - we've seen him drop from both tackle and end at this point - and he looks to be adjusting into a more well rounded, up and down the line player. As shown by the misdirection and plays on the edge, this is an area of his game that continues to be inconsistent but he makes up for it with effort. One important takeaway; he continues to step up in a variety of situations, making plays that can turn a game around or come up big in the 4th quarter. I think with the help of the 12th man he's capable of being a force in some big moments.