Jacoby Jones is the 3rd ex-Texan to receive a significant contract from the Ravens since the beginning of 2011. If he can approach the level of play provided by Vonta Leach or Bernard Pollard, they’ll have found another bargain.
Jones projects as the Ravens’ primary punt returner, but had a significant role as a receiver for the Texans in 2011. With injuries to Andre Johnson (9 games missed) and Kevin Walter (1 game), Jones led all Houston receivers with 808 snaps and was active for all 18 games.
The most common phrase uttered since he arrived in Baltimore seems to be “bad hands”. That’s a tag worthy of objective inspection. To that end, I’d suggest an excellent website of which many of you are probably aware.
Pro Football Focus (PFF) counts times targeted differently than the NFL, because they don’t include balls the QB throws away out of bounds. However, I don’t have a reason to believe their definition of drops has not been consistently applied across the seasons they have scored.
Per PFF, Jones had dropped 16 of 116 passes for which he was the target entering 2011. In 2011, he dropped 3 of 58 balls where he was targeted. By comparison, Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith each had 7 drops (102 and 90 times targeted, respectively). There were 6 players in the NFL with 10+ drops including Wes Welker (13/169) and Roddy White (15/175). Dez Bryant had only 1 drop in 100 times targeted.
PFF did not charge Jones with a costly drop vs. Cincinnati (see below), but they charged him with a very tough drop when Danny Gorrer pushed him out of bounds before he could secure the football in the Texans’ last meaningful play at Baltimore (10/16, Q4, 3:36). He had his best hands year in 2011, but after reviewing the passes I’d still grade him subjectively as below average.
I used the same method I did a year ago to review Lee Evans’ 2010 season. You can see that here: LEE EVANS
Jones was targeted 63 times in 2011, excluding 7 negated by penalty and 2 others where I think he was incorrectly labeled (in the Gamebook, the source for NFL statistics) as the target. This did include several plays where the Texans’ QB threw the ball away out of bounds, but excludes one instance where Schaub did not throw the ball in his direction and was furthermore called for intentional grounding! To summarize:
• Despite above average speed and size, he did not demonstrate much vertical explosiveness. Unlike Torrey Smith, who seems able to find another gear when the ball is in the air, it was not common to see him get deep separation from a defender.
• When he did get a step on the defense he had 2 drops more than 30 yards downfield (Week 8, Jax, Q2, 13:38, and Week 14, Cin, Q1, 14:54 )
• Schaub also had a tendency to under throw Jacoby on the bulk of in-bounds passes where he was targeted.
• He has ability to make good cuts that get the DB turned or on the wrong foot. He also goes down low to catch a football well, which lends itself to slants and crossing routes. I would also say he has solid ability to sit in a soft spot in zone coverage.
• He lined up almost exclusively on the outside (56 of 63 targets). For a player that rarely lines up in the slot, he is somewhat unusual in his comfort with the middle of the field. I divided the passes thrown to him by location:
1 (outside the left numbers): 5 of 12, 69 yards including 21 yards after the catch (YAC)
2 (between the left numbers and the left hash): 11 of 17, 177 yards, 24 YAC
3 (between the hash marks): 2 of 7, 26 yards, 10 YAC
4 (between the right hash and the right numbers): 5 of 8, 65 yards, 21 YAC
5 (between the right numbers and sideline): 8 of 19, 175 yards, 73 YAC
• He displayed only modest ability to make a play after the catch. The 80-yard TD on the opening play versus Tampa Bay was his best YAC result (47 yards) and represented 32% of his season total. He had only 4 catches with 10+ YAC.
• Whether by offensive design or some personal flaw, the Texans made very little use of his size on jump balls.
• He doesn’t seem to be afraid of contact. I labeled only 1 pass as “alligator arms” all season.
• He did not fare well on 3rd and 4th down when he caught just 7 of 23 balls for 92 yards
• The Texans’ injury issues at QB had some impact on him. Schaub, Yates, and even Delhomme all had similar completion stats throwing to Jones. However, his YPC figure was 17.9 with Schaub, 14.3 with Yates, and 11.7 with Delhomme.
• He caught an 80-yard TD (33 on the throw plus 47 YAC) on the first play from scrimmage vs. Tampa in week 10. The Tampa defense botched the coverage of the bunch right, Jones got behind the secondary, came back to collect the football, then eluded 2 defenders to score. That play fascinated me in the context of this study, because it is the only instance where the Texans threw to Jones from a bunch formation. Yeah, why would you want to try that again?
• He drew 5 automatic-first-down penalties (2 defensive holding and 3 pass interference) and was penalized twice (false start and illegal formation).
• While active and on the field for 34 snaps as a receiver, he was not targeted in either of the Texans’ playoff games.
How is Jones likely to be most useful to the Ravens:
• He’ll return punts.
• He should provide a veteran backup for either injury or a handful of snaps per game. I would be interested to see him enter mid-drive versus tired corners to give Smith or Boldin a rest.
• He’ll be a complement to the existing receivers with both some ability to go deep and some ability on slants and crosses.
• With Flacco’s ability to out throw the defense, it will be interesting to see if Jones can run under a few more balls because he will often draw single coverage deep.
• I don’t think he’ll be a particularly useful receiver on 3rd down when the Ravens have better possession options with Pitta, Rice, and Boldin. He is essentially competing with Pitta and Dickson for 3rd-down playing time.