NEPD Staff Writer: Mike Gerken
Is Linebacker the biggest need for the Patriots? Probably not, but in my opinion it is a position that could and should be addressed either in free agency or in the draft. The Patriots have two young and talented guys, but after that, the waters muddy a bit. With that in mind, I decided to watch a Linebacker that lacks in size, but not in talent.
It is a little before 11:30 pm. I was not planning on writing up this report until tomorrow, but then my Cyclones went ahead and lost to Texas Tech in basketball tonight. Instead of laying in bed and stewing about it, I thought I would be productive and crank this report out now. So if you sense anger behind these words or more than normal misspellings and run on sentences, you will know the reason. Luckily, the player I was scouting put a smile on my face so this shouldn’t be to harsh. Enough babbling, here is my report on Linebacker Deion Jones.
Name: Deion Jones (#45)
School: LSU (Sr.)
Height: 6’1″ (Senior Bowl)
Weight: 219 Lbs. (Senior Bowl)
Jones is one of those undersized Linebackers with great athleticism and movement skills. He is quick to recognize the play and has a great first step to get downhill and attack the play. He uses his hands well to keep bigger Offensive Linemen off of him. Jones also shows good speed,flexibility, and balance to get around players, but also the toughness and physicality to fight through blocks as well. Jones has the speed and hip flexibility to run with Tight Ends and Runningbacks in the passing game. He shows good awareness and lateral agility to drop into zone as well. Jones is very aggressive but smart, rarely making the wrong reads and taking himself out of plays. He also was one of the better special teams players in college football for the last four years and can be an immediate contributor there as well.
Right off the bat, size is a concern. Obviously it would be nice if he could bulk up some to handle the rigors of taking on NFL Offensive Lineman without sacrificing any of his athletic traits. He also only has one year of experience as a starter. He showed great knowledge of the game, but he still has lots to learn like reading run/pass keys,pursuit angles and timing on his blitzes. There are times when bigger lineman were able to get their hands on him and take him out of plays. Jones also needs to work on his tackling fundamentals as it will be important for a guy his size to be a solid wrap up tackler if he is going to have success in the NFL.
I will admit, for the past couple of seasons I have grown an affinity for some of these undersized, athletic Linebackers. I have day dreamed about what Bill Belichick could scheme up with a player like this. To me, Jones looks like a 4 down player in the Patriots system. He looks like that Swiss Army Knife that Belichick has tried to find for some time now. If put into the right situations, not only could he make some plays, but it would free up other players to do other things. A guy like Jones could not only free up the other Linebackers, but the Safeties as well. A lot of people love Myles Jack, and while Jack is the superior athlete, Jones can be asked to play the same kind of role and be successful in the NFL. I gave Jones a late 2nd round grade and could easily see him go earlier if he tests well at the Combine.