Grading Pittsburgh Steelers' First Round Rookie Jarvis Jones in Week 1

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Grading Pittsburgh Steelers' First Round Rookie Jarvis Jones in Week 1
Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

When it comes to the Pittsburgh Steelers, rookies are often relegated to special teams. Nevertheless, Jarvis Jones looks ready to break the mold and land a starting gig—much sooner than later.

Charting Jones' first NFL game was about what you would expect from a rookie going against a big and physical offensive front like that of the Tennessee Titans. Jones was in for 30 defensive snaps at right outside linebacker, while veteran Jason Worilds was in for a dozen more (42 total) defensive snaps.

Jones finished the game with three solo tackles, two of them for a loss. Worilds, on the other hand finished with just three solo tackles. Neither player registered a sack, but the Titans front is remarkably strong, making the effort extremely tough sledding.

Let's take a closer look at how Jones played on Sunday.

The bulk of Jones' snaps were not surprisingly on the outside. From this position, Jones rushed the passer, played the run and even dropped into coverage. Jones' game is predicated on being disruptive, not always posting huge stats. So, some of what we saw on Sunday was Jones doing his job to allow others to make plays.

The picture below illustrates this point perfectly.

This was a play intended for Titans running back Chris Johnson to take wide with a lead blocker in front. The offensive strategy is based upon the hope that the Steelers defense will crash inside, allowing Johnson to pop the run to the outside, with a convoy leading the way.

At the snap, Jones was faced with a quick decision. Should he try and beat the offensive lineman and make the tackle (knowing if he misses, there's little help on the outside)?

He opted for “no,” the smart decision, where he, instead, took a wide outside approach and cut the lineman. Johnson’s lane was eliminated and he was forced back inside, where the rest of the Steelers defense was in position to make the play. What could have been a long run ended up a short gain, really, because of Jones.

In this example, you can see how the Steelers used Jones as an inside rush linebacker. Unfortunately, this was met with limited success—as was any attempt to get pressure in the A gaps. The middle of that Titans offensive line just swallowed up everyone who came at it, including Jones.

It should be interesting moving forward, to see how much the Steelers coaches continue to use Jones on the inside. Could LeBeau perhaps be hoping to tap into the rookie’s disruptive playmaking for which we was so well renowned at Georgia?

Critics of Jones point to his lack of sacks in his first NFL game.

But what can be seen above is what Jones faced on nearly every outside pass rush attempt he had. The Steelers were dropping seven into coverage, while the Titans were content only sending three into the route, keeping seven back to protect.

As Jones sees more single blocking, his sack opportunities should increase significantly. More than once, Jones lined up as an outside linebacker, as safety Troy Polamalu was called to play in the box next to him.

Those two, in the same gap, will eventually create some huge defensive stops. It's just going to take some time and reps for them to get on the same page. But once they do, the formation could prove electric.

The signature play for Jones in this game came against running back Chris Johnson.

As you can see below, Jones reads the run to the right. Jones' quick first step keeps him from being picked up by the tight end, and he is able to quickly work down the line and close with fury.

A criticism of Jones was his lack of speed, but Johnson is one of the fastest running backs in the league, and Jones closed on him in a flash. That's real-field speed—the kind you can't measure with a stopwatch.

Jones’ Week 1 grade: B-

Reports have been very good on Jones' first NFL action. His number of positive snaps was greater than his negatives; suffice it to say, the future certainly looks bright. More snaps and fewer double-teams should add up to Jones lighting up the box scores.

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