Landry Jones (QB, Oklahoma): further analysis

This is what speed skating looks like on grass

A lot of people think Landry Jones is an elite quarterback prospect. It may not be a popular opinion, but I’m going to disagree. I think he’s a system quarterback, at least as we stand here today pontificating on whether the Seahawks are going to finally draft a quarterback early next year. I also think he’s been vaulted into a position of hype based around the guy he replaced.  

Let me stress that I’m not writing off Landry Jones as either a high pick next April or a productive pro-quarterback. He has a full season with the Sooners to enhance his stock and he’s more than capable of achieving that. If Jones leads Oklahoma to an unbeaten season and therefore potentially a national title shot, then kudos to him and maybe I’ll look back on this piece with some regret. However, you could argue that’s exactly what should’ve happened 12 months ago when having topped the polls for a mere week Blaine Gabbert outplayed Jones in a way that destroyed any ambitions of ending the year #1.  

I’ll also qualify that I disagree with Tony Pauline’s fourth round grade issued earlier this week. I think the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Jones isn’t close to the same level as Andrew Luck or Matt Barkley and talk of him going in the top ten is premature. However, he is at the top of a list of second tier quarterbacks (including Kirk Cousins at Michigan and Austin Davis at Southern Miss) who can really pump up their tyres with a great 2011 season.  

And let’s be brutal here – if Christian Ponder can endure his 2010 season and still go 12th overall, then Landry Jones is capable of going earlier.  

It’s easy to get behind a prospect like Jones. If you pick the right weekend you’ll find a productive quarterback churning out huge yardage and winning a football game. We’ve recently seen one Oklahoma quarterback enter the league seamlessly and Sam Bradford appears set to have a long and successful career in St. Louis.  

Let’s get one thing straight right away – Landry Jones is not Sam Bradford. It’s not close. The only thing they really have in common is the color of their college jersey. I’m not saying people have compared the two, but let’s just make it clear right now that Bradford’s success should have no bearing at all when grading Jones.  

Both quarterbacks benefited from a system that often requires only one read, includes a lot of multiple WR sets and is basically designed to create an up-tempo passing offense that dominates. Bob Stoops has created a system that works, wins and makes yardage inevitable for it’s quarterbacks.  

Bradford threw 86 touchdowns in two years before injury ruined his final year in college. He won a Heisman Trophy following a 2008 season where he passed for nearly 5000 yards. Although the system played it’s part there, Bradford found a way to shine through it. People rarely talked about the offense at Oklahoma when Bradford was under center. He was completing the same swing passes, one read quick throws, mastering the no huddle offense. Yet he did it with such supreme execution and accuracy to become the #1 player among his peers.  

Jones has similarly enjoyed mass-production during his two years starting. Like Bradford he passed for nearly 5000 yards last year. However, when I watch him play I usually feel like I’m watching a productive system rather than a quarterback for the ages. Jones doesn’t shine through withrare accuracy and execution. He has decent arm strength but not a Ryan Mallett type cannon. He isn’t mobile in the pocket or a threat running the ball (Bradford was unexpectedly elusive). He isn’t making multiple reads and very often throws blind to the first scripted target.  

A fun thing to do sometimes is compare quarterbacks from previous classes to the upcoming group. We’ve heard a lot – too much – about how next year’s class is going to be so much better than previous years. Hyperbole. I would argue that a strong point can be made about the top end talent – Luck and Barkley – being a class above. Beyond that it’s just another year of quarterbacks.  

In my mind Jones is not a superior talent to Blaine Gabbert or Cam Newton. He lacks the physical potential of Jake Locker, which is exciting if unpredictable. I understand why Ryan Mallett went in round three, but his on-field game is also light years ahead in my mind. Jones isn’t going to come in and light up a team with physical potential or great accuracy. He’s going to have to learn an offense that demands so much more than he’s used to (not unusual for college QB’s admittedly, but this is an exaggerated case that makes an accurate grade a real challenge). He’s not going to extend plays with an elusive athleticism. At this stage he’s a guy I could see really prospering in the right environment (eg the Josh McDaniels offense) but you’d need the system to make the quarterback, because this is not a quarterback who makes the system.  

In terms of the Seahawks I don’t think he fits their now obvious desire to make mobility a key component. That’s not to say a guy has to be Michael Vick or Vince Young running the ball, but clearly they need to have a certain degree of athletic ability. Charlie Whitehurt and Josh Portis have the 8th and 11th best short shuttle times ever recorded at the combine. Tavaris Jackson is similarly a capable mover. All three would run above-average forty times for their position.  

Jones does not fit that mantra. He’s not Ryan Mallettas a runner, don’t get me wrong. He’s not going to be out-paced by a shirtless Andre Smith in the forty yard dash. In fact Jones will make the occasional play on the ground and he’s capable with boot legs and play action. However, it’s not a striking positive to his game or necessarily what he’s about as a quarterback and I’m not sure it fits in with Seattle’s outlook.  

What I like about Jones is the fact he isn’t restricted to making several easy throws the way Jimmy Clausen was in college. It’s one of the bigger concerns I have with Kirk Cousins. Jones threw the ball on a medium level consistently well in certain games last year (particularly vs Florida State). His arm isn’t a cannon, but it’s good enough. It doesn’t look as forced going dowfield as when Cousins attempts a deep pass.  

He outclassed Christian Ponder in 2010, but looked like the second best QB when sharing a field with Blaine Gabbert, Ryan Tannehill and Brandon Weeden. Can he be the best quarterback on the field in every game this year? If so, Oklahoma will have a big season and we start talking about first round grades.  

But because he doesn’t have explosive physical talent or elite accuracy, you’re always going to be wondering whether he can cope with a much more demanding system and whether he’ll stand out. Teams will gamble on a Jake Locker ‘getting it’ because he looks like John Elway physically if not necessarily in his performance at this early stage in his career. Teams won’t always gamble on a guy with all the yards and scores you’d ever want, but with a lingering concern that without his vast array of swing passes and screens he’ll just be found out.


  1. Brandon Adams

    “He isn’t making multiple reads and very often throws blind to the first scripted target.”

    Tempted to write him off right there.

  2. Hawksfan33

    I’ve gone on the record in saying that I think Jones is going to be a future superstar quarterback in the NFL, so obviously I am going to disagree with some of this article.

    The thing with Jones is that while I agree that the Oklahoma system is prime for high-stats quarterback production, I don’t think that he, or any qb for that matter, should be docked down for the system they are thrown into. I think that we need to look more at the tools that he displays.

    In Jones’ case, I see a quarterback that is excelling with the system he is given. I know that you feel that Sam Bradford shone through the system, but we are talking about a Qb in Bradford that had a fantastic season for a rookie and will likely be a prime Qb in the NFL for years to come. I guess what I’m saying is that it’s not the end of the world if Jones isn’t excelling like Bradford did but still excelling in his own right.

    What I see with Jones that has me excited is that he has great footwork, good accuracy, and a very capable arm. I do think that he has enough manueverabilty in and out of the pocket for Pete’s liking, and I also like the fact he is a good kid off the field and is someone that can be looked at as a good “face of the franchise”. I would compare Jones ability to a Matt Ryan or maybe even to a lesser extent Phillip Rivers. When evaluating L. Jones, in my oponion, I can’t find anything in his repertoire to suggest that he cannot be at least a franchise Qb. However, I see the potential for much much more.

    • Alex

      Ignoring Landry, I’ll note that even Bradford wasn’t THAT great. The media really hyped him up and his talents were even more obvious in the NFC West.

      He was good for a rookie, but not great by any means. 18:15 TD/INT ratio and 3500 yards (77 Passer Rating) while both completing and attempting the most passes ever. At the same time, 90% (a stat brought up twice last year during games) of his passes are considered “short” within 10 yards. It’s quite obvious that Shurmur wanted to ease Bradford in and rely more on their solid run game. Even so, Bradford completed 60% of his passes which is slightly disappointing (considering the type of passes) since Bradford rated about as good as a college prospect could for accuracy.

      • Hawksfan33

        I pretty much agree with you here.. Bradford’s hype machine was and still is cranked up to the highest level. However he does look to have the stuff to potentially be an elite Qb and I will admit that as a seahawks fan I am scared of his potential.

    • Rob

      I think that’s a really optimistic view of Jones ability at this stage, Hawksfan33. I would counter by saying I’m not knocking Jones for the system he plays in, I’m merely pondering whether the system enhances his performance and whether he could be as succesful in a much more complex and demanding system. Is he going to get found out at the next level when he isn’t throwing swing passes blind 3-4 times in one drive?

      I just don’t at this stage see a spectacularly talented quarterback. Physically or with accuracy. Matt Ryan wasn’t playing in a 5000 yard offense and looked like a much more complete prospect coming out of college. I never evaluated Rivers, but the evidence I’ve seen so far the only comparison’s I’d make between Rivers-Jones is the slingy throwing action. He’s been vaulted above his means.

      • Hawksfan33

        I think that the question of whether the system makes L. Jones as opposed to L. Jones making the system is a fair one. From what I have seen of Jones, I agree that he does make poor decisions at times making blind tosses but overall I think that he is a good decision maker, especially more last year than his Freshman year. I anticipate him to improve even more in his junior year, and with the potential of a national championship run, I can see easily see him overtaking A. Luck and M. Barkley as the number one overall pick.

        In regards to my comparisons, yes the Rivers comparison was referring to his throwing motion more than anything. I think that the Matt Ryan comparison is a little more realistic. Remember that people had concerns about Matt Ryans accuracy as well when he was coming out.

  3. Colin

    I really hope the Hawks don’t pull a Ponder in the 2012 draft and reach for a QB. If Ponder plays well, then it won’t matter what the Vikes did to get him, but that move reeked of desperation.

    • Alex

      That and the Andy Dalton pick. Dalton should have been at best a 4th rounder.

      • Hawksfan33

        Kaepernik too in my opinion

  4. Karlos

    OMG!!! I wish everyone in Oklahoma would read this… But as soon as I mention a Seahawks blog page they’ll laugh. You have no idea how they think & speak on Landry Jones every since Sam went down (Think about Josh Portis’s hype in Seattle times 10). I was very unimpressed by his accuracy & inconsistent play but ppl made excuses for his it like he doesn’t practice running the system year round. Seeing OU qb’s run the spread Jones reminds me alot of Josh Heupel & the Jason White category of qb (Over-rated by their inflated #’s). Bradford is elite & like you said questions about him being a system qb were clouded when ppl got a dose of how accurate Bradfod is. Bradford is not only accurate but also a student of the game, how quck did he grasp the pro-style offense..? You compared Luck & Barkley Rob measuring the things ppl don’t see, the intangables. Landry reminds me of Chris Sims in big games because he’s not a playmaker or overly aggressive qb & gets flustered when playing from behind. I hope the Seahawks stay away from jones because I see “Matt Leinart” written all over him “All hype & average talent”.

  5. 51oline

    Hey Rob, I know this is off topic for this article but I was just wondering if you knew of any websites where I could watch and re watch Seahawk games? I want to watch the game tonight but im not not going to be able to until after half time and i want to watch tavaris and the ones work.

    • Rob

      I’m not aware of any other than NFL Gamepass. If you have that you can go back and re-watch games quite freely, but it’s costly.

      • 51oline

        Allright thanks for the help. And keep up the good writing!

  6. Kip Earlywine

    I’ve only seen Jones in two games (and one was FSU), but I’m upbeat about the guy. If a QB shows me that he can make multiple reads and turn those into completions at least a few times a game, then it doesn’t really bother me if he makes too many single reads on all the other plays. What matters to me is that he shows the ability. Frequency is not the issue. Its kind of like a pitcher with a great curve or change who still throws 90% fastballs. Its not like his pitch selection diminishes how good his stuff is, and you can coach him into throwing his better stuff more often.

    Similarly, I see the basic skills in Landry Jones to be an effective QB in an NFL offense. Its going to be a different game in the NFL, but he’s got the arm, got the ability to make reads, and is pretty accurate.

    I’d be a little surprised if Seattle drafted him though. His mobility is slightly below average and he’s a bit of a gunslinger type, which both seem at odds with the “point guard” QB the FO is searching for.

  7. Brian

    I don’t like the whole systems qb comparison. it can be valid in some circles ie Akili Smith, Trent Dilfer,Kyle Boller all systems qb’s. But guys like Aaron Rodgers, Bradford, Jim Kelly all were labeled system qb’s. Landry has all the tools and has the arm strength and size to make all the throws. If the Seahawks were to take Landry they would need to give him the tools. The Seahawks are starting to put the pieces the Oline and Zack Miller and Rice. What they need to do to is draft the WR’s like Rodgers has, or get the Oline and RB like the Bills had for Kelly.

    Landry Jones will need help but if the hawks get the right system/coach cowher, fischer, or gruden. He could be a very good Hawk

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