He is the linebacker a lot of folks want gone, and they feel justified because the Steelers did not exercise his option for next season. Just because he hasn’t lived up to the lofty expectations placed upon him coming out of Georgia, doesn’t mean that he is not worth keeping around. Maybe he’s just a late bloomer, maybe it’s because he has been healthy this year, or maybe it’s the second year of being in Keith Butler’s simplified scheme. Maybe it’s a combination of the three. Regardless, Jarvis Jones appears to be on the verge of evolving into a complete linebacker. While Jones has been solid in coverage and defending the run, many tend to focus on the lack of sacks to define his worth. It seems to go unnoticed, despite the fact that he has yet to record a sack, that Jones has been getting pressure on the quarterback more this season than at any point in his career. Watching how Jarvis Jones has played this year brings to mind, former Steelers linebacker, Clark Haggans.
In his 8 years years with the Steelers, Haggans only averaged about 4 sacks a season, but like Jones, was asked to be more than a pass rusher. With the changes in the way the Steelers now play defense, they no longer designate their outside linebackers to mostly pass rushing duties. Instead, they are being asked to do a little bit of everything, and Jones has been up to the task. On the season, Jarvis Jones is tied for fourth on the Steelers with 27 tackles, four off of his career high of 31 during his rookie season. Jones has one forced fumble, which he recovered, and an interception that he returned 20 yards. Injuries have held him back as much as anything. Jarvis Jones was off to a great start to his second season in 2014, recording two sacks in his first three games. His season pretty much ended against the Carolina Panthers, on a strip sack, when he sufferd a wrist injury. He would ultimately come back to play in four more games that season, but would largely be ineffective because of the injury.
Jarvis may not be racking up the desired sack totals, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t having an effect on quarterbacks. Quarterback hurries is an underated stat that’s almost as important as sacks, and almost always results in incompleted passes. Jones is currently ranked 86th in the NFL, ahead of notable pass rushers such as Ziggy Ansah, Robert Mathis and Nick Fairley. Three of Jarvis Jones’ hurries have forced teams to punt, while a fourth hurry resulted in a Ryan Shazier interception. To say that Jarvis Jones is a complete bust, doesn’t contribute in a meaningful way, or that he doesn’t belong on the roster, is simply not true. He is doing what is asked of him. A collision with Stephon Tuitt while rushing up the middle cost him one sack, while an intential grounding call cost him another. The sacks will come for Jones. James Harrison actually had one less sack than Jones has at the same point in their careers. Jarvis has increased his strength to fight off blocks, and has increased his repertoire of pass rushing moves under the tutiledge of Joey Porter.
Jarvis Jones may not be what everyone thinks he should be, but he is certainly doing what the Steelers are asking of him. The more the defense gets teams in third and long situations, the more opportunities Jones will have to rush the quarterback. As players like Bud Dupree and Cam Heyward return, and as Ryan Shazier gets healthier, Jones’ path to the quarterback should clear up, resulting in some of those hurries turning into sacks. At 27 years old, Jarvis Jones is entering his prime years. To resign him next year is certainly not going to break the bank and would definitely not be a mistake. The mistake would be to let a guy like Jones, who is showing signs of breaking out, do so for another team. Jones may never be a Lloyd, Porter, or Harrison-like linebacker, not many are. When Jarvis Jones finally does put it all together, those who have worked with him, supported him, cheered for him, and especially those who have doubted him, they should all be more than satisfied with the finished product. All except for the quarterbacks he rudely introduces to the turf.