If you go by the most accurate preseason magazine the last 18 years, Phil Steele thinks Sidney Jones is one of the top-10 draft-eligible cornerbacks in the country. The only Pac-12 cornerback listed ahead of him happens to be Steele’s number-one man: USC’s Adoree Jackson.
If you go by the statistics, Jones was clearly the best cornerback last year for the Huskies. He was number one in solo tackles - 30. The next nearest corner was Darren Gardenhire with 25 in the same number of games played. Jones led the team in interceptions - four - and also led the defensive backs in breakups (10) and passes defensed (14), where no other UW defensive back had more than nine. He also led the team in fumbles recovered.
But when you look at how Washington’s pass defense stacked up against the rest of the conference, they led the league in the most important category: passing touchdowns allowed (11).
Much like Azeem Victor set the tone early versus USC, it was an interception by Jones early where he snuffed out a double screen play and jumped the route that gave Washington even more confidence on the road versus the Trojans. And it was his pick-six versus Washington State that blew open the 108th Apple Cup last season.
But it’s not the explosive plays that define Jones’s career at Montlake to date. It’s his ability to shut down the opponent’s best receiver, thereby eliminating half the field for the quarterback.
When you have at least one shutdown cornerback, it changes everything for a defense. It allows the defensive coordinator so much flexibility in how he rushes the quarterback and they don’t always have to be in read-and-react mode. They can be aggressive in their blitzing and in their run responsibilities, knowing that if the cornerbacks are in one-on-one situations they are more than capable of handling their business without assistance.
But Jones is more than just a lockdown defender. He can also play the run with his physicality, and he can also stand plays up at the line of scrimmage. He’s really good at shedding blockers and can blow up screens like the one at USC.
So there’s a reason Phil Steele has Sidney Jones as one of the top cornerbacks in the country and we have him as one of Washington’s five most important players: his skill set is extremely hard to duplicate. His mix of size, speed, quickness, technique, football IQ, and toughness are why he’s set to make a tidy sum of money in the NFL next year.