Former Steelers LB Jarvis Jones ready for fresh start with Arizona Cardinals
TEMPE, Ariz. — The Pittsburgh Steelers made Jarvis Jones the 17th overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft after a standout career for Georgia in which he collected 45.5 tackles for loss and 28 sacks over two seasons while earning Consensus All-America status in 2011 and 2012.
The 2012 SEC Defensive Player of the Year, he was expected to join a long list of excellent linebackers who donned the black and gold.
Things did not go according to plan, as though Jones saw the field often, he collected just six sacks in four seasons with the Steelers. Hence, he became known as a draft bust, and now he’s an Arizona Cardinal.
The Cardinals brought the linebacker in on a one-year contract this offseason, giving him a chance to join a growing list of players who excelled on what are known as “prove it” deals.
“It’s a new beginning for me, it’s a fresh start,” Jones said of his situation. “I’m 10 toes in, man, and it’s a beautiful place here. I love the environment, the coaches and what they’ve got going on here.
“I’m definitely trying to jump on this train and make my mark.”
Jones has joined a defense that last season ranked first in the NFL in sacks, second in yards allowed and 14th in points surrendered. It lost key players in linebacker Kevin Minter, cornerback Marcus Cooper and safeties Tony Jefferson and D.J. Swearinger, and added Jones, fellow linebacker Karlos Dansby and safety Antoine Bethea.
Dansby and Bethea come with more of a pedigree than Jones, though perhaps with a lower ceiling.
Jones was a first-round pick for a reason, after all, and a fresh start could be exactly what he needed.
“Definitely,” he said of whether he needed one. “This is a great place to be. As far as my position, they’ve got some great guys in Chandler (Jones) and Markus Golden, and I’m trying to be a part of their group and do some great things around here.”
Jones said that has meant working hard and studying to learn a new defense, and Golden, who led the Cardinals with 12.5 sacks last season, has been impressed.
“He’s out there going hard trying to learn his plays and just out there competing,” he said. “I like how he comes to work every day and be prepared, trying to learn, want to learn new stuff; asking questions.
“So he seems like a guy that’s trying to get better and trying to take his game to the next level. That’s the type of guy I like to play with.”
The question of course is whether or not there is another level for Jones to reach.
The 6-foot-3, 248-pound linebacker is 27 years old, and four seasons in Pittsburgh is a large enough sample size to draw some conclusions.
Yet, he would not be the first player for whom the light came on later in their career, with experience and an improved fit being the difference.
Jones has 50 regular season games and six postseason contests under his belt, and now is in a defense that may suit him better.
“Some strength and tenacity,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians offered for thoughts on Jones. “He’s got some pass rush skills, and we play our outside backers a little different than they do in Pittsburgh.
“He’s getting around the quarterback; he’s very powerful when he’s running stunts. He might not get the sack, but he’s going to cause it. I like where he’s at.”
Arians added he sees Jones being “a hell of a special teams player for us” as well, but is hopeful that Jones can flourish in Arizona in ways he could not in Pittsburgh.
Jones said what happened in Pittsburgh is in the past, and he’s focused only on taking advantage of the opportunities he has in Arizona. He is confident in his coaches, believing they will help him to maximize his skill set.
In terms of what he brings to the table, Jones said he only wants to “put his hands in the pile anywhere that I can be used,” saying he’s happy to help with the pass rush, special teams or anywhere else the team wants.
It’s an attitude that comes with not only his desire to improve as a player, but validate the faith the organization has put in him.
“They wanted me to come here; they reached out to me and I just want to pay my respect by doing the things that I need to do,” he said. “And that’s being a great ballplayer and being productive.”
With mini-camp over, Jones said he will head home for a little bit but will not be gone too long because he wants to get acclimated to the Arizona heat.
“It’s a bit different for me, moving from Pittsburgh coming here,” he said. “It never even thought about getting this hot in Pittsburgh.”
Jones will soon realize you never really get used to Arizona summers, though there is some level of adaptation that goes on. It may be tough at first, but with time he may get there.
The same may be said of his career, and if he does find a way to look more like the player worthy of being the first linebacker off the board in the 2013 draft, everyone will benefit.
He thinks it can happen.
“Definitely, man,” he said. “My career in Pittsburgh wasn’t what I expected, but like I said, it’s a fresh start for me, I’m still getting an opportunity to play football.
“I want to take full advantage of it, and what better place to do it than here?”