Over the next few days I’m going to continue to review 2012 prospects, break down the tape and preview the new college season. Yesterday we featured USC quarterback Matt Barkley, so it’s only fitting to cover the other guy not named Andrew Luck – Oklahoma’s Landry Jones.
The redshirt junior had major production in 2010, stacking up a lofty 4718 passing yards, 38 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. It’s no surprise given the number of high percentage passes in the Oklahoma offense. Jones threw the ball an incredible 617 times last season, averaging 44 passes per game. Against Oklahoma State he threw 62-times and his lowest workload came in a 45-7 blow out of Texas Tech – a game he didn’t finish yet still managed 29 attempts. This is a very different offense than the one witnessed at USC (Barkley) or Stanford (Luck).
In Sam Bradford’s Heisman winning season he recorded 4720 passing yards, so around the same region as Jones last year. Yet Bradford attempted 483 passes, 134 less than Jones in 2010. The pass-happy offense didn’t restrict Bradford’s stock because he was able to shine regardless. Sure, he also made a large number of screens and dumps off – but he also flashed the ability to be incredibly accurate and capable of making every pro-pass. His 50 touchdowns and just eight interceptions in 2008 was testament to his quality and rightly he was drafted first overall last year. Jones has to prove he’s equally capable of flourishing in an offense that will always make life easy.
The good news is he has the prototypical size (6-4, 225lbs) and an arm that won’t be a restriction in the NFL. As with both Andrew Luck and Matt Barkley, Jones doesn’t have any character issues and plays up to the ‘leader’ role on his team.
The tape above is from a blow-out win over a sloppy Florida State. His opposite number Christian Ponder suffered a hideous meltdown on the day and one can only assume Minnesota didn’t linger too long on this game before drafting him 12th overall. As you can see, there’s a real mix of good and bad from Jones. On a positive day, you’ll see the kind of performance above. The errors are largely unpunished and he’s able to make a few good plays. On an off day, he struggles and we saw that in perhaps Oklahoma’s biggest game of last season against Missouri where Blaine Gabbert looked a superior pro-prospect.
His quest in 2011 will be to become a consistent force and to shine beyond the pass-happy offense. He can do that with the vast talent he has at receiver and particularly the return of safety net Ryan Broyles is a big positive. Limit the turnovers and try to become more efficient and Jones can become a quarterback with top 10-15 talent.
So to the tape…
This is pretty much eight minutes of screen passes and you could cut most of it out and be no more incapable of making a pro-judgement. Welcome to the Oklahoma offense. It’s all about quick tempo, high percentage passes that get the ball out to the playmakers quickly and then rush back to the line before the defense has a chance to rest. Jones is given a different read but the check-down is always there. What I need to judge next season, especially against the tougher defenses, is whether he’s too quick to go to that safe option. Alternatively, will he make errors trying to force things when dropping off a short pass was actually the best bet? Little things like that will define his decision making and as he owns the physical tools, will be a major factor in his final grade.
He has a tendency to be a little off with some throws, as witnessed at 0:51, 1:03, 2:11, 5:32, 5:37 and 6:18. The pass at 6:45 is a really poor decision that should’ve led to an interception.
In contrast there are some really positive plays where he looks like a top-ten pick. The first examples comes at 1:32 where he fits the ball through a crowd into a position where the receiver can catch it in traffic. Nice zip, good placement and it’s also from his second read, so he’s had to make a quick decision to make the completion. This preceeds the first touchdown, another pro-throw, with Jones’ showing a great pump, the #27 bites opening up space in behind two defensive backs for his receiver. Again the pass is very accurate and executed to perfection.
Fast forward to 2:21 for the next big play. This throw is Bradford-esque with beautiful touch, dropped in behind the cornerback giving the receiver a chance to catch by the sideline and run in for the score. It’s impossible not to see a throw like that and think top-10 potential.
In Seattle’s offense you need to be able run bootlegs and throw on the move, we see some evidence of this at 3:08. Mobility isn’t a big positive for Jones but he’s not Ryan Mallett-slow. He’s a bit like Matt Ryan on his feet – capable of rolling out and moving around in the pocket, but he’s not going to break off big runs or surprise you with a scramble. There’s a play-action at 4:11.
The third touchdown is a great example of how the fast tempo offense works to Oklahoma’s advantage. The FSU defense can’t prepare itself in time, it’s a disorganised mess and Jones takes full advantage by snapping the ball early and getting it to an open receiver.
He’ll probably want to forget the play at 4:30. Ouch.
There’s absolutely no reason why he can’t take the next step and not only be very successful with Oklahoma, but also be one of the big name prospects for the 2012 draft. Unlike Matt Barkley he has no real need to stay for a fourth year starting and there will be a market for the players next in line behind Andrew Luck. Can he become more clinical and efficient to match the physical qualities and the flashes of pure potential? He made major strides forward as a second year starter and there’s no reason why that can’t continue. However, there is still work to be done and he’s behind both Luck and Barkley at this stage in my opinion, but things can change.