Guerry Clegg commentary: The stop watch doesn't tell the whole truth about Jarvis Jones

sports@ledger-enquirer.comMarch 23, 2013 

Jarvis Jones' official 40-yard dash time was shockingly average:

4.92 seconds.

Well, forget the stop watch.

Ask Florida's Jordan Reed if Jarvis Jones is fast enough to play football. Reed is the Gator whom Jones chased down from behind and swatted the ball loose, saving a touchdown and possibly the game for Georgia.

Ask the quarterbacks and coaches Jarvis Jones terrorized for the past two seasons, when he racked up 28 sacks.

Ask John Brantley, Florida's starting quarterback in 2011, whom Jones pounded into the turf four times.

Ask Jeff Driskell, Brantley's successor in 2012, who was victimized three times.

Ask either James Franklin, the Missouri quarterback or the Vanderbilt head coach. Jones played with a strained groin muscle against Missouri but still sacked Franklin twice. When the Tigers tried to double-team Jones, Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham moved him inside -- necessitated in part by Alec Ogletree's suspension -- and Jones responded by intercepting a pass.

Jones still wasn't completely healed against Vanderbilt. But he managed three tackles behind the line of scrimmage, including a sack, in a 48-3 Georgia win.

Ask Alabama's Nick Saban. A.J. McCarron, the Tide's quarterback, didn't have time to count to 4.92 before Jones was on his back. So Saban, despite having the best offensive line in college football, conceded that they could not block Jones, so they committed to running the football.

Ask David Pollack, who's single-season sack record at Georgia was broken by Jones, who had 14½ sacks last season. Actually, someone did ask Pollack, now a TV analyst after a neck injury ended his career early.

"Jarvis is a big-time player in big-time games," said Pollack.

There's still about a month before the NFL draft. What Jones' surprising 40-time will do to his draft stock remains to be seen. No doubt, some general managers and personnel directors will stare at that number and wonder. These would be the same people who have anointed the likes of Tim Couch, Ryan Leaf, MaMarcus Russell, Brady Quinn, Jimmy Claussen and Heath Shuler as franchise quarterbacks. The same guys who said Russell Wilson is too short, Jerry Rice was too slow, Tom Brady was not athletic enough. The same guys who thought Aundrae Bruce was the second coming of Lawrence Taylor.

Some football personnel people believe stop watches and weight room stats over their own eyes. That's their problem.

Granted, just because Jones was a dominant player in college does not mean he will dominate -- or even just survive -- in the NFL. But what the qualities -- whether intangible or merely undervalued -- that made Jones a great college player are the same qualities that win in the NFL. Think about some of the greatest linebackers of the last 30 years. Mike Singletary, Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs, Brian Urlacher, Clay Matthews, James Harrison. None of them necessarily impressed the stop-watch holder. All played with relentless intensity. All were driven to improve every year.

Jones never claimed to have great speed. He said as much after the 2011 season, when he opted to stay at Georgia and work on getting better. But contrary to common belief, a 4.9-second 40 time is not exactly pedestrian, even by NFL times. The difference between someone running a 4.9 and someone running a 4.6 is maybe two or three steps. That's a lot when running half the length of the field. But seldom do linebackers have to run more than 20 yards on a given play.

Before the speed question, there were concerns about Jones' health. He suffered a "stinger" his freshman year at Southern Cal, which prompted an MRI as a precaution, and that disclosed spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the open spaces in the spine. USC doctors refused to clear him to play, prompting him to transfer to Georgia. Now every doctor who has looked at Jones has cleared him.

The bottom line: There's no such thing as a sure thing in the NFL draft. But NFL teams can be sure of this. Jones is a relentless worker and has a knack for making big plays and winning games. When the Lombardi Trophy is hoisted by the Super Bowl champions, there will be no one checking 40 times.

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