Height: 6' 4"
Weight: 229 lbs.
Strength: Ball handling, arm strength, deep accuracy, play action
Weaknesses: Mechanics, ball placement, anticipation, decision making, poise
Scheme is one of the biggest factors in analyzing prospects for the NFL Draft, yet it’s often forgotten when draft analysts detail players and slot the them in positional rankings. In order to avoid this, it’s where we start in our analysis of University of Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones.
It only takes a few plays to realize what kind of system Jones is working in. It’s laden with screens of all sorts along with a significant amount of half field, triangle reads and basic passing concepts that have Jones throw it where the defender isn’t present. This implies that he’s making only a couple of reads while he takes quick drop backs, which usually consist of 1 and 3 steps.
Simply put: it’s a spread offense.
This means that Jones will have to develop the ability to go through multiple reads, both progressions and coverage reads, over the course of his NFL career because he doesn’t have a significant amount of experience in going through more than two reads (excluding his outlet) thus far.
One of Landry Jones’ most notable strengths is was his ball handling. Once he drops back, he does a good job of keeping both hands on the ball in his triangle setup and continuing to do this once he’s running. Whenever he looks to execute a pump fake, he often keeps both hands on the ball and utilizing his shoulders to move the defender. It’s important that he does it this way opposed to constantly using the ball for the pump because of two reasons:
One aspect of quarterbacks that many harp on (and sometimes overrate) is arm strength. Arm strength can be looked at in two ways: 1.) down-field passing that requires a high arching ball and 2.) throwing outside the numbers with sheer velocity. Jones can do both and do them well.
A quarterbacks arm strength can be judged based off of the ability to throw into the wide side (known as “Field”) of the field as well as to fit the ball into tight windows. When it comes to the former, it could be argued that Jones’ best throws come outside the numbers and into the Field side, where he’s able to complete passes very well to pass patterns that work away from him, such as deep outs.
The Sooners quarterback can also throw down the field without trouble. He’s proved on numerous occasions that he has the ability to fit a throw in between a cornerback and a safety in the Cover 2 Zone (5 under, 2 deep) concept while also throwing it down the seam in between two safeties. Deep accuracy is another strength of Jones’.
Last but not least, Jones does a good job of selling play action and getting his eyes up quickly to re-engage with the field. The success of play action comes down to selling it with good technique and going through the reads that follow the fake.
While Jones’ strengths suggest a promising prospect, his weaknesses really take the evaluator back and raise questions as to what his true potential really is.
For starters, he has issues with his mechanics. He doesn’t follow through with his arm by bringing over his shoulder consistently and he has an elongated delivery. After his triangle setup, Jones drops the ball down to his hip and winds up by looping the ball before delivering the ball.
Deliveries come in all forms, as was briefly discussed last week, but elongated motions are particularly troubling because it slows down the quickness of getting the ball out while increasing the chances of a defender breaking on the ball. There were many instances of this being an issue while watching Jones, most notably against the Baylor Golden Bears in 2011 when he had several passes batted down, including on smoke routes where the ball is supposed to get out quicker than the defender can react.
Quarterbacks are built from the ground up and that’s where a team in 2012 will start with Jones when they look to improve his footwork. Jones has issues with his footwork which can cause problems with generating velocity on some throws. He doesn’t consistently rotate his hips when delivering the ball which forces him to generate his power purely from his upper body.
Shifting from the lower body to the upper, we look at his arm and above the shoulders where he sometimes struggles with ball placement and anticipation.
Ball placement is a form of accuracy, and a quarterback usually determines where to place a ball by looking at the leverage of a defender as well as the route that‘s ran by the pass catcher.
Naturally, if a defender is on the outside shoulder of a pass catcher, the ball should be thrown on the inside shoulder. Similarly, on deep patterns down the sideline, the ball should be thrown only where the pass catcher can get it: outside on the back shoulder.
Jones has issues with both of these examples, and they seem to come at the worst times. On several passes against the Florida State Seminoles in 2011, he had problems delivering the ball outside on out-breaking pass patterns ran by his receivers. When the ball is thrown inside on an out-breaking pattern, the defensive back has a greater chance of making a play on the ball and potentially forcing a turnover.
In the same game, Jones made a poor throw on 3rd down and 2 yards to go by placing the ball to the outside shoulder of his pass catcher on an inside breaking pattern, where the defender was trailing. The throw nearly resulted in an interception.
Anticipation is also a problem for the Sooners quarterback, but that might be because he doesn’t have to do it often. Jones throws into a lot of open windows at Oklahoma because the offense does a very good job of getting its players in space. However, in some instances, he was forced to anticipate breaking receivers and didn’t do well. He lacked the ability to time the pattern and throw it into an area where his receiver could run underneath it which resulted in incomplete passes and interceptions.
The final two aspects of Landry Jones’ game that can be viewed as weaknesses are his decision making and poise. The two are intertwined in this case because his poise in the pocket is very poor, consequently his decision making suffers. Jones has shown a lack of toughness in the pocket and will often leave it when there’s a hint of pressure. He struggles throwing without functional space, meaning space to step through his throws, and also suffers from poor decision making under pressure. Jones tends to throw into double coverage and struggle with turnovers for mare than teams would like when he’s under duress.
Admittedly, it’s early to analyze Landry Jones for the 2013 NFL Draft, but it doesn’t hurt to preview him as a prospect going into his final season because, as noted, he has a lot to improve on mechanically and his draft stock will fluctuate.
Jones has many flaws in his game, most notably his footwork, but its an area which can be improved upon once he gets to the NFL. He could have entered in the 2012 Draft, but instead chose to go back to school, which doesn’t truly benefit him in terms of developing further as a player. Instead, he’ll likely look to improve his draft stock and raise it to what it once was: a potential high round draft choice.