Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

04 Oct 2007

Short Passes Are Clogging Jones's Path

How Chad Pennington's inability to throw deep is holding back Jets running back Thomas Jones.

Posted by: Michael David Smith on 04 Oct 2007

37 comments, Last at 09 Oct 2007, 10:45am by brasilbear


by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Thu, 10/04/2007 - 11:42am

link to story please

by JonL (not verified) :: Thu, 10/04/2007 - 11:50am

For now, click my name for the link.

by Waverly (not verified) :: Thu, 10/04/2007 - 11:51am
by hooper (not verified) :: Thu, 10/04/2007 - 11:53am

Mr. Smith is a writer for FootballOutsiders.com.

Don't know why, but "Mr. Smith" has a ring to it...

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Thu, 10/04/2007 - 12:16pm

No, you don't needa rocket arm to play qb in the NFL, but there is a minimum arm strength requirement, and I don't think Pennington meets it anymore, at least against non-terrible defenses. Being able to throw 30 yard passes doesn't really describe what the minimum is, either. You have to be able to sometimes get the ball downfield in a hurry, or something in the neighborhood of a hurry, and Pennington can't do it anymore, it seems to me.

by Led (not verified) :: Thu, 10/04/2007 - 12:22pm

Bah. My original comment got lost in the ether. I agree with MDS that the Jets need to take more chances down the field but that's to improve their passing game. I've watched all 4 Jets games this year, and I think MDS overstates the degree to which teams are crowding the line of scrimmage to stop the run. On Sunday, for example, Buffalo played two deep the majority of the time. The Jets OL just can't open holes on a consistent basis. As evidenced by their DVOA, Leon Washington is much more effective with this OL because he has the ability to cut back or bounce it outside when the intended hole doesn't open up. Jones can't.

Against a two deep zone, you have to threaten the deep outside or the corners can sit on the short stuff, which is what happened on Sunday. That meant more dumpoffs to backs and less YAC for the receivers.

by admin :: Thu, 10/04/2007 - 1:52pm


by Karl Cuba (not verified) :: Thu, 10/04/2007 - 4:03pm

You can make a similar argument for the niners' lack of running game this year. Hostler decided that Smith was concentrating on throwing downfield too much but his new offense has no ambition, allowing the defense to comfortably play 8 n the box.

Plus the line is playing like crap, especially Smiley.

by Charger Jeff (not verified) :: Thu, 10/04/2007 - 5:13pm

#6 - isn't that why Jones was more beloved in Chicago than Benson, because he CAN cut back more effectively? (and can actually hold onto the ball and take a hit)

by Tom (not verified) :: Thu, 10/04/2007 - 6:37pm

As a Bears fan I would say Jones's vision and cut back skills are his main strengths.

Followed by his blocking and receiving skills. Don't let his receiving DPAR last year fool you, that's just a function of how Ron Turner and Rex Grossman (mis)used him.

by Led (not verified) :: Thu, 10/04/2007 - 6:55pm

Re: 9 and 10, maybe Jones is still finding his way in the Jets system because I've seen a number of plays where there have been cut back lanes but he's run straight into the line. I'm not saying it's all Jones' fault -- there have been plenty of plays where there's absolutely nothing there.

Washington also happens to be very good. If I ran the zoo, I would've found a cheap, hard running backup in the Sammy Morris mode and used Washington as the #1 back in the committee.

by Jimmy (not verified) :: Thu, 10/04/2007 - 8:41pm

Personally I just don't think Jones was ever all that much in Chicago, Tampa or Arizona. He has never been all that good. He has always needed a hole and been incapable of producing all that much on his own. He isn't especially big or fast or powerful. He isn't deficient in any particular area, but he isn't special in any way either. I suspect a lot of people who haven't been watching him for the last three years think the Jets stole him for what was effectivley a high third pick, but if you had been watching him for the last few years you would know that the Bears got decent value for an old back who has never put up stellar numbers and has a long and varied history of injuries. The only time he ever played well in a Bears uniform were when the offensive line was opening up huge holes for him.

If he isn't setting the league on fire in New York it is because he isn't all that good.

by Tom (not verified) :: Thu, 10/04/2007 - 10:05pm

I think you are underestimating how bad the passing game was when Jones was in Chicago.

by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Fri, 10/05/2007 - 9:06am

Post 12 couldn't be more wrong. When in Chicago Jones was a slashing runner who broke through arm tackles and punished folks who just tried to knock him versus wrapping up as Jones was very good at maintaining his balance. Jones was also a solid pass catcher who could take a swing pass and get the yards that were available. It's just most of the time teams would have 8 guys near the line of scrimmage so even a 3 yard gain would be considered a success.

And Jones is without peer on blitz pickup.

Barring TJ having lost his skills overnight I suspect there are other issues at work here.

From Packer beat writer Bob McGinn:

"RB Thomas Jones meant the world to this team. He ran hard, picked up blitzes with brains and courage, and was a team guy."

That's just a sample of various assessments that refute the above post.

by dryheat (not verified) :: Fri, 10/05/2007 - 9:35am

Will Allen, I couldn't agree more. When evaluating quarterbacks, one of my mantras is that if he can't throw a 10-12 yard out-pattern on a rope, he's not going to be successful for very long in this league. He doesn't need to be Favre and try to penetrate a steel wall, but it has to get there in a flash or else NFL CBs are going to jump it every time.

by mactbone (not verified) :: Fri, 10/05/2007 - 9:49am

Re 14:
Such a team guy that he demanded a trade because he couldn't stand being in a RBBC even if he was the starter. Such a great guy that he "broke his hand answering the phone" in Arizona. TJ's just another guy that the team takes to and the media loves to fawn over because he's been around the league.

Jones is just another guy. I don't know if Terry Allen was ever anything great, but from what I remember I think they're comparable players. Pretty good, can get you the yards with decent blocking but just not exceptional at anything.

by Karl Cuba (not verified) :: Fri, 10/05/2007 - 11:09am

BadgerT1000:"And Jones is without peer on blitz pickup."- I've seen him whiff on blitz pick quite a lot.

Jones is a reasonably good all round back but the NY based media went overboard in their assesment of his likely impact for the Jets. His main problem is that he's never been able to stay healthy, I'm not sure he's ever played an entire season.

Perhaps that reporter you quoted had an interest in slagging off the Bears. Just look which is his local team, I think they have some sort of rivalry with Chicago.

by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Fri, 10/05/2007 - 11:13am

"Jones is just another guy"

Then Cedric Benson and Adrian Peterson must REALLY suck.

by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Fri, 10/05/2007 - 11:25am

Well, I watched Jones play multiple times when he was in the NFC North and he was a fine player. I literally have no idea how anyone could watch him play during his years in Chicago and regard him as "just a guy".

The Packers team held Jones in high esteem and were delighted that he was traded out of the division.

As to the trade, Jones felt he was being pushed aside by an inferior player. Jones thought Benson was not an all-around player as well as being lazy. Based on 2007 does anyone find that assessment incorrect?

Also, despite Jones unhappiness with team leadership he still played his *ss off in 2006 which is the professional thing to do but I think many of us have seen how UNprofessional athletes can be when they are displeased. Jones didn't let this stuff impact his play on the field.

Jones was a fine player in Chicago. Unless his skills have eroded overnight I think the issues lie elsewhere.

So again, I VEHEMENTLY disagree with the statements above.

And I am NOT a Bears fan. I have no dog in this fight except the truth.

by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Fri, 10/05/2007 - 11:33am

As a follow up Jones since 2003 has played in 16 games, 14 games, 15 games and 16 games.

Again, I have no idea why folks are suggesting that Jones is both pedestrian AND injury-prone.

by Led (not verified) :: Fri, 10/05/2007 - 11:43am

Badger: For the record, I think TJ is a good player as well. I just think he is a straight ahead "downhill" runner who, as you said above, will break a lot of arm tackles and make extra yards after contact once he gets a head of steam. The Jets OL is simply not letting him get that head of steam very often. I didn't watch him much in Chicago -- did you think demonstrated a lot of vision and cutback ability? Because I haven't seen much of that in NY.

by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Fri, 10/05/2007 - 12:14pm


Jones was a plant and go guy. He would see the hole and GO. He didn't do much tap-dancing. Vision yes. Cut back? Nothing extraordinary.

What galls me is that Jones is being portrayed as "just another guy". Which is just plain wrong.......

by Tom (not verified) :: Fri, 10/05/2007 - 12:37pm

I would say Jones is not a downhill runner. Read any post about him on a Bears forum and the #1 complaint about him is "he goes down with first contact." Not to disparage him, but Corey Dillon he is not.

Also, this Bears fan was sad to see him go, and now wish he was here more than ever.

by mactbone (not verified) :: Fri, 10/05/2007 - 12:45pm

Re 22:
How is that plain wrong?

Look at FO's stats for him:
2000, -21.5%, -3.5
2001, -5.1%, 3.5
2002, -24.1%, -6.4
2003, -12.4%, 1.3
2004, -2.3%, 12.8
2005, 2.0%, 20.2
2006, 5.6%, 25.5
2007, -20.1%, -2.0

He's never been that good, he's really only been bad a couple years - he's an average back that had some good blocking and got a lot of carries.

Compared to Benson:
2005, -23.0, -2.3
2006, 15.1%, 17.9
2007, -36.5%, -7.5

The Chicago Adrian Peterson:
2003, -8.3%, 0.6
2005, 25.8%, 13.1
2007, -39.5%, -2.0

The point about Benson is completely dumb. Adrian Peterson did not turn into an awful back in one year - I don't have the book with me but even in the years he didn't have enough carries to show up on the website he's had good numbers. The offensive line is horrible this year.

by Tom (not verified) :: Fri, 10/05/2007 - 12:55pm

Except that Jones put up those stats with in 2005 and much of 2006 with no threat of a passing game. I'm pretty sure there were plays where the defense had 9 men in the box, and we still ran the ball effectively.

Even FO's stats have to be put in context.

by mactbone (not verified) :: Fri, 10/05/2007 - 1:23pm

Re 25:
Yet, Peterson and Benson performed better than Jones.

by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Fri, 10/05/2007 - 1:24pm


While I agree that the Bears offensive line has regressed every report I have read plus multiple posters HERE mention how Benson isn't doing the job. And even last year when he was running well other parts of his game were not nearly as positive.

Look, if you want to dump on Jones and dismiss the guy as ordinary that is your choice. But I think his value is significant and if the Jets want to point the finger at him they are likely missing the correct target.

by Chas (not verified) :: Fri, 10/05/2007 - 1:26pm

Jones is just a guy. His last couple years were basically his ceiling. He's a slightly above average running back.

As for "Benson and Adrian Peterson must really suck then." is more than a little silly. Anyone who has watched a single second of Bears football this year would be able to point at the O-line as the main cause of the running issues.

I don't understand why anyone would be remotely surpised that he's not having a great season with the Jets. The line there isn't a great run blocking line and Jones isn't talented enough to make much happen on his own.

by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Fri, 10/05/2007 - 1:39pm

"Yet, Peterson and Benson performed better than Jones."

With limited carries. How many times do we ahve to see the 3rd down back with higher DVOA before we realize its a function of limited carries.

by Zac (not verified) :: Fri, 10/05/2007 - 2:51pm

Jones is just zis guy, you know?

by Jets Fan (not verified) :: Fri, 10/05/2007 - 4:00pm

If Jones is really this good, then why does Leon Washington have better numbers with the same offensive line, in the same system? I remember when Jones was in Tampa and he didn't do anything Earth shattering there either. I'm thinking the Bears kept Benson and dumped Jones for a reason -and now its becoming evident. Washington has been more productive for the Jests and he's slightly bigger than Mighty Mouse.

by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Fri, 10/05/2007 - 5:15pm

"If Jones is really this good, then why does Leon Washington have better numbers with the same offensive line, in the same system"

For the same reason Leon Washington had great numbers last year when everyone else sucked. He's actually really good.

by mactbone (not verified) :: Fri, 10/05/2007 - 11:47pm

Re 29:
If it's all about limited carries then why isn't Adrian Peterson doing well this year?

by Tom (not verified) :: Sat, 10/06/2007 - 12:49am

Ultra small sample size, and a fumble.

by Jimmy (not verified) :: Sat, 10/06/2007 - 10:44pm


I have watched every Bears game since Jones arrived (and left) it isn't that I think Jones was crap, he was a wonderful improvement on Anthony Thomas, not that that says all that much. He never really did anything all that special, he would only ever pick up more than five yards when given a hole the size of a humvee and when he got those gargantuan holes he never was able to take tham to the house. He seemed to go down with every arm tackle and ankle tap, I honestly don't know where you saw him plowing through would-be tacklers. Also in the 2nd half of last year his blitz pickup was sporadic at best, he would often miss his assignment or just not block properly. I know this is a minority opinion but Benson played much better last year.

by Gus (not verified) :: Sun, 10/07/2007 - 1:02am

32 - I've been wondering for a while now how Washington would do the starting job. I guess the Jets think of him as too small, but he seems to be tough enough to go up the middle to keep the D honest.

by brasilbear (not verified) :: Tue, 10/09/2007 - 10:45am

RE:35 I agree

As someone who has watched every Bears game as well, Jones is just a guy. He didn't hit the hole hard, went down on first contact way too often, ran out of bounds instead of turning up field, and refused to be a team player. If he was better than Benson (and I think he is) he could have stayed and still gotten the starting job. He was steamed because he lost the starting job without competition, completely forgetting that he got the starting job from A.Thomas without competition. Pot meet kettle.