Inside LB Countdown: Scouting Jones

Here's the scouting report on Michigan State's Taiwan Jones, straight from the NFL's top scout. Jones is an old-school linebacker whose weakness is playing in coverage.

Photo by Kim Klement/USA TODAY

Michigan State’s Taiwan Jones is a physical tackler who might not have the quickness needed to run and get to the perimeter. He is best working inside the box, as he will miss some tackles when he works in space. He lacks ideal athletic agility (stiff in his hips and lacks good change of direction skills) but he has good size and instincts. He plays faster than his timed speed indicates, but his high center of gravity sometimes causes him problems attempting to disengage.

The Spartan is an aggressive tackler who plays with good field smarts, but has just adequate playing strength. He is a good student who needs only normal reps to retain. He shows the ability to handle the mental aspect of the game, doing a nice job of making calls and knowing his teammates’ assignment responsibilities.

Jones is a quick reader who steps up and takes on the blocker. He has a nose for the ball, but on occasion, he will run himself out of position vs. play action and counter moves (has better instincts vs. the run than as a pass defender). He throws his body around, but also has some burst to come over the top of the block.

He is a stout athlete who does not get bounced around much working at the line of scrimmage. His lack of fluid change of direction agility will sometimes see him get caught up in trash, but he is active with his hands in attempts to shed. His high center of gravity will sometimes see him get tied up, as he and can give up his legs, but he gets back up quickly to get back into his pursuit.

Jones takes good angles, but is a bit stiff, and this shows up when he is working in space, where he can whiff or gather his feet prior to contact. He does not look fluid changing direction, but he does have a quick straight-line burst to close. Even though he does not open up his hips properly, he is certainly not lacking in his effort to get to the ball. He will make every attempt to go the distance to make the tackle. When he takes good angles, he is consistent catching the runner from behind

In closed quarters, he is an explosive striker, but will sometimes drop his head and miss when working in space. He does show consistency breaking down at the X’s and shows force when facing up. When working in space, he gets a little bit out of control and reverts to making shoestring tackles.

Jones is a strong tackler who will generally get the ball carrier down if he gets a hand on the opponent. Even vs. the larger offensive linemen, he does a good job of stacking. When taking on the fullback, he does not hesitate to attack and stall the back in the rush lane. He needs to stay at a low pad level in order to be physical, but he has the strength to play right up in the “A” gap.

He holds his ground well on plays directed at him, when he plays at a good pad level. The thing you see on film is his ability to step up, fill the rush lane and make the hit. He has good chase speed, but gets too high in his stance when working in space. He has problems with trash at times, but plays well behind the ball. His poor change of direction agility is shown when he fails to generate the lateral speed needed to meet plays wide, though.

Jones plays smart in short area coverage, but his stiffness shows up when he has to gain depth in his pass drops (he is alert, but very mechanical in his drop). He needs to improve his breaks out of his backpedal in order to get a good angle in attempts to drive for depth. When he fails to open his hips and get that depth, he will be caught too shallow. He works better closer to the line, where he can drive to close on the runners coming out of the backfield.

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