Michigan State Senior
Does his best work when he can get upfield and attack the line of scrimmage. Shows ability to shoot gaps and make plays in the backfield. Does a good job coming up and filling running lanes at the poiint of attack. Breaks down, wraps up and delivers some pop on the hole. Shows he can make plays in pursuit especially when he can get downhill, although does his best work between the hashmarks. Sniffs out screen and shows nice instincts. Shows a decent rip move and burst to rush off the corner. Comfortable keeping things in front of him in coverage and can cover a back or tight end in the flat.
A bit undersized and it shows when trying to take on a bigger back or blocker at the point of attack. Can be late reacting to the play, and get caught on his heels, allowing center to take him out on the second level. Needs to do a better job filtering through traffic at the point of attack. Doesn't take on blocks well, trying to run around them, or lowering the shoulder to absorb them rather than using hands to get off them. Limited awareness and feel for coverage. Doesn't have great hips and can get caught out of position. Doesn't show great effort in pursuit when the ball goes outside the hashmarks and his motor runs hot and cold.
Jones was a player I was really high on going into this past year, but I was disappointed with his play in the few Michigan State games I saw. I didn't see a lot of effort and the minute the ball got outside his initial range, he sort of shut down. Dump-offs into the flat or the quarterback scrambling outside the pocket, and he's just jogging downfield, getting set for the next play. That's not the sort of intensity and motor I want in the quarterback of my defense. But he is a leader and I think he can be coached up where that isn't a major issue at the next level because he didn't play that way as a junior. He got bigger as a senior and was a much improved tackler and hitter. Super productive player that was a full-time starter for 3 full years, but started half his games as a true freshman. Started off as a SAM linebacker before moving to MLB midway through his sophomore year. His best year came as a junior, where he had 154 tackles, 14 for loss, and 9 sacks. Production dropped off a bit as a senior with 106 tackles, 10 for loss, and only 1 sack, but had 2 picks. Finished career with 465 total tackles, 46.5 tackles for loss, 16.5 sacks, 2 picks, 9 breakups, 5 forced fumbles, and 1 recovery.
Jones isn't the biggest guy, but he's big enough. He was listed at around 230 as a junior, and getting upwards of 245 pounds is a good career move for him. It allows him to be a better fit inside in the 3-4 scheme, which is the ideal role for him. He can play MLB in a 4-3 scheme because he has good instincts, nice speed and range, but he's not going to be great there. Especially when he's limited in coverage. I think the only way he can really play well in that sort of scheme is if he has some hogs in front of him that will keep blockers off him and allow him to flow cleanly to the football. What he does best is getting upfield, attacking gaps, and playing the run, things he can do the majority of the time in a 3-4 scheme. I'm not in love with his range and coverage abilities and I think he would just be an above average starter at best in a 4-3 scheme. But in a 3-4, he has the potential to be one of the better inside guys in the league, particularly if he plays in a scheme that highlights his strengths. In that light, he's more James Farrior than Lawrence Timmons. But he should play in a scheme like the Steelers or Jets that is going to disguise its blitzes a lot and he'll get his fair share of opportunities to rush the quarterback and won't have to drop into coverage the majority of the time. I think he's good enough to start right away, and has the character and toughness to develop into a leadership role fairly quickly at the next level. I think he should impact fairly quickly, like in his first year or two. And while I do think he's limited in some areas, I think in the right scheme with the right talent around him, those limitations won't negatively affect things too much. He's probably more of what can be an excellent complementary starter than a true blue impact guy. But he can be one of the key contributors on a top-ranked defense.
Jones wouldn't be a good fit in Atlanta. He has some ability to be a Lofton-like linebacker in the scheme, but he too would be limited by less than ideal range and coverage ability. And he's not really a good fit to play on the weakside or strongside because of those same issues. The strongside is probably his better fit because it would allow him to play more of an upfield game. He could get by, and be an effective starter, but wouldn't be a guy that makes a bunch of plays because he isn't playing a scheme that is suited to his strengths.
For a 3-4 team looking for a good inside linebacker, Jones is worth a look at the end of the first round or early part of the second.
1-poor, 2-weak, 3-above average, 4-very good, 5-elite
Point of Attack: 3.5
Pass Rush: 3.5
"Vincere scis, Hannibal, victoria uti nescis" -- Maharbal, 216 B.C.E.