John E. Hoover: Landry Jones' inconsistent tendencies were still on display at Senior Bowl
BY JOHN E. HOOVER World Sports Columnist
Monday, January 28, 2013
1/28/13 at 7:22 AM
Go to John E. Hoover's blogOriginal Print Headline: Hurt by system?
You've got to feel for Landry Jones.
Jones' awful performance Saturday at the Senior Bowl was more a reflection on the system he operated at Oklahoma as it was his own personal shortcomings.
Comparing college quarterbacks across the country can be a fool's errand. Distinctly different offenses, vast disparities in supporting talent, inequities within a given conference - it's why NFL scouts tend to rely on their own eyes and almost always fall back on old fundamentals like strength of arm, speed of release and accuracy of throw.
From NFL scouts to draft analysts to media to fans, a consensus opinion exists that Jones did not progress significantly in his final two seasons at Oklahoma.
Before the Senior Bowl, NFL.com analyst and former NFL wideout Bucky Brooks said Jones was the enigma of the 2013 draft, writing: "Jones is the most gifted quarterback prospect in the 2013 class" but is "maddeningly inconsistent" with his game management.
Scouts, Inc.'s Todd McShay, ESPN's lead scouting analyst, said, "I've never seen a quarterback with his ability and his potential be so inconsistent with his confidence in the pocket."
Despite effusive collegiate passing statistics that would suggest Jones has the mettle for pro football - he threw 2,183 passes at OU, completed 63.6 percent of them for 123 touchdowns and 16,646 yards (almost 9 1/2 miles!) - he showed otherwise during the NFL's preparatory class in Mobile, Ala.
After what was hailed as a strong week of practice, Jones in the game completed 3-of-9 passes for 16 yards and was sacked twice.
One's first inclination is to go easy on Jones. Spending a week learning a system and integrating a new (albeit intentionally simplified) offense can't be an easy thing.
But here, then, is where the folly of comparison becomes valid.
The other five QBs at the Senior Bowl were subjected to the exact same stringencies, all the same discomforts, and they all out-performed Jones.
Florida State's E.J. Manuel was 7-of-10 for 76 yards with a TD pass and a TD run. Arkansas' Tyler Wilson was 8-of-11 for 40 yards. Miami (Ohio)'s Zac Dysert was 10-of-16 for 93 yards with an interception and two sacks. North Carolina State's Mike Glennon was 8-of-16 for 72 yards.
Only Syracuse's Ryan Nassib had a day similar to Jones, going 4-of-10 for 44 yards with an interception.
Jones looked indecisive and at times afraid. Daniel Jeremiah, draft analyst for NFL.com, posted on his Twitter feed Saturday, "Landry Jones really struggles when he as to reset his feet in the pocket. Accuracy suffers."
That's a major setback for Jones, who went back to school for his senior year (despite receiving what he said was a first-round projection from the NFL College Advisory Committee) just so he could improve his footwork and his poise in the pocket. He even used his spring break last year to work with a quarterback guru to improve both phases.
But Jones' results Saturday - much like his performance against Kansas State last September - are evidence that he has improved at neither.
Jones spent his entire senior year taking snaps - almost every snap - in the shotgun, lined up 4-5 yards behind the center. The gun works fine in the NFL, but it's situational. Quarterbacks also need to take snaps from under center.
But it's not the snaps that are troublesome. Any second-grader can put his hands under the center's butt and take a snap.
What hurts shotgun QBs trying to make the jump to the NFL is their view of the field, or more specifically, the defense. Things look different. They're trying to read coverage and pressure after the snap, and doing so while backpedaling from under center is not the same as doing so while in the shotgun.
It's not better or worse, just different. When a quarterback throws 2,000 passes (and countless more in practice) from the gun, suddenly being under center makes him uncomfortable.
Maybe even more damaging to Jones' NFL prospects is the Sooners' fast-paced scheme, wherein plays are called from the sideline, options are taken away, reads are minimal.
At OU, Jones got the offense to the line of scrimmage so the defense couldn't sub, then waited for signals from the sideline. Run or pass? Depends on the defense. Wait for the coach to call it. No decision necessary.
Quarterbacks can't grow in that kind of system.
And after four prolific seasons at OU, nobody really knows what kind of leader Jones is on the field. The term "field general" is an overused hyperbole, a creation of linotype sportswriters and black-and-white voiceovers. But it's also a real phenomenon. Some quarterbacks are born leaders, and players pour their heart out for them no matter what.
In OU's no-huddle offense, the only time Jones was allowed to huddle was on the sideline after a timeout, right before a possession. After that, whether it was a three-and-out punt or 16-play touchdown drive, his teammates never got to look into Jones' eyes, never got to hear his approvals or his admonishments, never got to hear him say, "watch the d-end/tackle twist" or "you're hot on a safety blitz" until they got back to the sideline.
Although his stock slipped over the weekend, Jones will get drafted. He'll make some money and probably have a nice, long career as a backup.
And at some point, maybe after four or five years of getting comfortable in the pocket and being under center and looking at his guys in the huddle, his prodigious natural talents - a powerful arm, good accuracy, moderate athletic ability, strong character and great attitude - will make him a starter.
South quarterback Landry Jones of Oklahoma throws under pressure from North defensive lineman Kawann Short of Purdue during Saturday's Senior Bowl at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Ala. G.M. ANDREWS / Associated Press