What I like — In 2012, Jones was one of the most disruptive forces in all of college football. It didn’t matter if you were a running back or a quarterback, if you played against the Bulldogs at some point, you got up close and personal with #29. Jones’ style is frenetic and at times lacking refinement, but incredibly effective. Many of Jones’ best plays came on sheer effort and work on his part. Compared to some of the other top pass rushers in this draft class, Jones isn’t the fastest or most explosive. What he is, is a physical player. He prefers to get up into the chest of a blocker and then use his hands to engage the player and then move them aside.
That’s not to say Jones can’t come off the edge and use leverage to get around the end because he can. In fact, at times, he shows a tremendous burst. It’s just not something you see on every play. Jones also has a nice inside-spin move that he uses as a pass rusher and even in the run game that gives him a nice path to the inside. You saw lots of those inside zone plays get blown up when Jones is able to get that inside move.
What I don’t like — Obviously, the big thing that stands out is the injury concerns. Jones suffers from a narrowing of the spinal cord which is called Spinal Stenosis. This is a condition that many people have and live with, and other than one neck stinger for Jones hasn’t impeded his football career. Obviously, it’s something to monitor. Another concern that has been raised about Jones is his speed. After running a disappointing 4.9 40-yard dash, some question his effectiveness as a 3-4 rush outside linebacker where speed is a premium. The real impact of this will depend on the team, but I would say put on the tape and tell me if Jones is slow.
As far as his game goes, there are some things to keep an eye on. He almost never works out of a 3 point stance and seems much more comfortable standing up. He’s probably not a 4-3 defensive end and could even be limited in a 3-4 scheme. I think it’s important to note many of the technical shortcomings of Jones’ game: overly aggressive, missed tackles going for a strip, or getting caught up in traffic trying to jet through for a big stop are just part of the “take the bad with the good” when it comes to Jones. I’m not sure any of these kinds of things can be coached out of him, so teams must be aware of that.
What does it all mean — Jones is an enigma. His injury and 40 times have really taken the spotlight, but it should be about the film. It should be about all the plays Jones makes against top competition. He’s fearless and he’s relentless. He’ll stick his nose in the run game, he’ll rush off the edge, he’ll chase and tackle, and he’ll force teams to account for him. I have equated Jones’ game to that of Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu. They both play a little out of control at times, and both are going to have plays where they try and make a huge play, miss on it and fans will cringe because of the decision they made. Then there’s the next play when they flash out of nowhere and make a play, force a turnover and stall a drive. I have contended for some time that Jones would be a great fit as a WLB in a 4-3 defense. The key to his success is allowing Jones to freelance and use his instincts and athletic ability. Be ready to accept the missed plays with the great ones. Much is being made about Jones falling out of the first round, and while it might happen, I have no doubt Jones is a first round talent.