Give an assist to Jones

Posted Nov 23, 2012

Jason Jones, who was signed in free agency to help the Seahawks improve their pass rush, has only 2.5 sacks entering Sunday’s game against the Dolphins. But his impact is far greater than the stats indicate.

While discussing Jason Jones the other day, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll mentioned the defensive tackle’s knack to “get into cracks.”

Say what? Jones is 6 feet 5 and weighs 276 pounds. Get into cracks? Is this guy a graduate of the Harry Houdini School of Illusions?

Jones just smiled when told of Carroll’s seemingly confusing comment. “I’m an undersized defensive lineman,” he said.

When you consider that the three-technique tackle Jones replaces in the nickel line is 6-6, 325-pound Alan Branch and the D-tackles who rotate at the nose position are the 311-pound Brandon Mebane and the 297-pound Clinton McDonald, 276 pounds is undersized.

But Jones makes up for any pounds he gives away by giving opposing blocks fits with his length, quickness and disruptive penetration. That’s why Jones, who played first four NFL seasons with the Tennessee Titans, was targeted by the Seahawks in free agency when they set out to improve their pass rush this offseason.

That goal also led to the team selecting rush-end Bruce Irvin in the first round of April’s NFL Draft. Irvin, who comes in on obvious passing situations along with Jones, has seven sacks to lead all rookies. “Leo” end Chris Clemons, who produced back-to-back 11-sack seasons in his first two years with the Seahawks, also has seven.

Clemons and Irvin’s combined 14 sacks entering Sunday’s game against the Dolphins in Miami rank fourth in the league among pass-rushing tandems, and the Seahawks are fifth in the league with 28 sacks – five fewer than they had all of last season.

The Seahawks will be looking to pad their stats against Ryan Tannehill, the Dolphins’ rookie QB who has thrown five interceptions in the past two games after not throwing a pick in his previous four games; and was sacked three times in Miami’s loss to the Buffalo Bills that extended their losing streak to three games after being taken down 16 times in his other nine starts.

Clemons and Irvin will be working against left tackle Jake Long, who already has allowed a career-high six sacks; and rookie right tackle Jonathan Martin. And looking for any and all help Jones’ crack-exploiting penetration can give them.

Jones’ impact on the team’s improved pass rush has been far greater than his 2.5 sacks would indicate. In fact, his cause-and-effect influence was never more apparent than in the two games he missed recently because of a sprained ankle. In the Week 8 loss to the Lions in Detroit, Matthew Stafford put the ball up 49 times, but was sacked only twice. The following week, in a victory over the Minnesota Vikings at CenturyLink Field, the Seahawks generated four sacks of QB Christian Ponder – but 1.5 came from linebackers Bobby Wagner and Leroy Hill and another from safety Jeron Johnson.

In their pre-bye win over the New York Jets at CenturyLink Field, with Jones back on the field, Irvin had two of the team’s three sacks of Mark Sanchez.

That’s why Carroll is so pleased to have Jones back, and coming off the bye week to rest that ankle.

“This is the best he’s felt since he first got nicked a while back,” Carroll said. “The break really did help him. He’s a good accent to us. We need him; we need him out there to be at our best. Our pass rush is at our best when he’s out there, so hopefully we can get him going to finish the season and allow him to be a factor.”

Which brings us back to Jones’ crack-exploiting expertise, despite going against offensive guards who can outweigh him by 55 pounds – as was the case against the Dallas Cowboys’ Nate Livings and San Francisco 49ers’ Mike Iupati, the players Jones faced while collecting 1.5 of his sacks.

“I just use my length to try and get in the gap and beat those bigger guys – those bigger offensive guards – and beat them to the spot,” Jones said.

Whatever works. And whatever Jones is doing obviously is working.

“Jason doesn’t always have to make the sack to be a factor because he’s got great reach and he gets in the quarterback’s way and he games real well with the ends,” Carroll said. “So he’s a big accent to us.”

Carroll will get no argument from Jones, who also realizes his contributions can’t be measured in sacks alone.

“Anything I can do to the help the team,” he said. “If I’m pass-rushing that gap and Bruce or Clem come up under me free, they’re my teammates and I want to see everybody eat. So it’s cool. I’m helping out everybody.”