Given the scrutiny with which I wish to watch the game tapes and the wealth of content each inspires, I'm going to stick with a half by half break down. Half one today, half two tomorrow. Is that cool with everyone? My basic plan is to do a Quick Cap the night of the contest, Monday break down half one and answer some of my pregame Matchupalooza questions, Tuesday to cover the second half, the remaining Matchupalooza questions and run down the stats, and then use the rest of the week to preview the coming contest. That's all subject to change, but if it works for everyone it 'sa schedule I'll try to stick by. Onto Walter Jones.
Both of Seattle's sacks allowed on Sunday were unequivocally Walter Jones' fault. In my Matchupalooza preview I mentioned he would be facing a very quick young pass rusher, Gaines Adams, and that if he had lost some lateral agility that Adams would be well suited to expose it. The good word is that Jones had no problem with the speedy young end, nor did he look at all overmatched against the rest of Tampa Bay's various ends and tackles that he squared off against. Athletically, Jones looked tip-top, mirroring well on his slide steps, pulling with ease, purpose and velocity and generally looking like the franchise left tackle we have come to know and love. How is it that he allowed two sacks then? Counter-intuitively, not because the 11 year veteran has slowed a step or lost some explosiveness, but because he blew his assignment. They were mental errors.
The first occurred on Seattle's drive stalling flea-flicker in the second quarter. The play looked pretty sloppy to start, with Alexander badly selling the run and lateraling a sloppy pitch back to Beck. Needless to say, the Bucs weren't fooled, but Jones was. Marcus Pollard was deigned to cut off the outside pressure along the left while Jones was working the stop-the-free-rusher job often assigned to centers. In other words, Jones had no set defender to block, but instead was assigned Alexander's rushing lane (that turned into a pass rushing lane after the pitch back). Jones spied the hole for a split second and then got distracted by something happening to his right, at this point Jermaine Philips flew right behind him and had Hasselbeck dead to rights. The whole play was botched, Pollard didn't stop the edge rush, Alexander didn't sell the run, Beck couldn't find a free receiver and hesitated to throw but the sack falls squarely on Jones who simply blew his assignment.
The second sack allowed is simpler but more troubling. On third and three of the Hawks second drive of the third quarter Greg Spires made an outside move and though Jones shaded him well Spires froze him and simply darted around his outside shoulder untouched. You don't see Walter Jones freeze up like that and I can't help but think he might have been protecting his left shoulder. Once Spires had a step on Jones to the outside it looked as if Jones just didn't want to risk sticking his left arm out there and potentially being reinjured.
A combination of caution and cluelessness might be expected from a player who missed most of the preseason because of an ailing left shoulder. I'm not too worried about the blown assignment, but if Jones is favoring his left shoulder so badly that he fears putting an arm on Spires one must worry about Jones' health. This is a developing story worth watching.