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Dobbs vs Jones: Who Will be Leaving Town? Pt. 2

July 13, 2018
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Dobbs vs Jones: Who Will be Leaving Town? Pt. 2

In Part One we looked at Josh Dobbs and Landry Jones in their college careers. Now, we will look at their pro careers.

Dispelling a Myth

I have seen Landry Jones referred to as a ‘top NFL backup’. I’ve even had people tell me he is in the top 10 as far as backups go. This is clearly not true. I think there’s a reason why some people might think this. Jones has rarely been pressed into service during his time with the Steelers. In the five years he’s been with the Steelers he is responsible for less than 6% of the team’s pass attempts. This means he hasn’t been exposed to other team’s defenses for a number of games. He hasn’t had to carry the team on his back in the way Charlie Batch, who had a 6-3 won-loss record, did when starting for the Steelers.

Jones’ starting record is 3-2 with two of those victories coming in meaningless games against the Browns when the Steelers had already clinched a playoff birth.

Here is how Jones was ranked among other NFL backup QBs by the following news organizations in 2017:

NFL.com        21st

Yardbarker    25th

CBS Sports   20th

USA Today    22nd

Now, somewhere in the 20s might not sound too bad to some but when you consider who is below that number it puts things in perspective. Bryce Petty, Kellen Moore, Kellen Clemens (Wait, aren’t those the same guy?), Matt Schaub, Ryan Mallet, super-washout who laughed all the way to the bank, Brock Osweiler and Joe Callahan (who?) are in the wrung below that mark. Some of these guys are barely in the league and I’m pretty sure Jones wouldn’t be either if he had had to start for an extended period of time.

Landry Jones is NOT a top NFL backup. He’s not even close.

Now, it’s time to look at Dobbs vs Jones based on their pro careers. Dobbs sample size is much smaller, of course but during that time he’s shown improvement.

Worst vs Worst

First, let’s look at both Quarterback’s worst performances.

Jones vs The Eagles

You may remember Landry Jones’ 4 interception preseason debacle against the Eagles in 2016. Here it is set to the Benny Hill theme.

I think this was the beginning of the onset of Landry Jones Syndrome as many, many pundits and bloggers bent over backward to explain away this dismal performance. Jones was passive/aggressively begging to be taken out of the game. That is not something you want from a NFL Quarterback.

Jones vs the Bengals, Wildcard Playoff Game, 2016

Then there’s his performance in what was the biggest game appearance of his career against the Bengals in the playoffs where Cincinnati famously self-destructed. Jones went 2/5 for 11 yards for a beyond pathetic 2.2 yards per attempt, got sacked once and threw what should’ve been a game losing interception for an shockingly low 8.3 Quarterback rating. He was so bad in this one, he had to be yanked from the game and an injured Ben Rothlisberger had to come back in to win it.

Dobbs vs Giants – Game One 2017 Preseason

Dobbs has only been in preseason games so the sample size is smaller but he’s shown steady improvement, some mental toughness and a short memory. He’s also displayed great mobility, an ability to improvise and a good arm on intermediate and deep passes.

In his first game, which could’ve turned into a total train wreck, Dobbs fought back from some early bad passes, bad decisions and a couple interceptions to throw some good long balls and a touchdown to Cobi Hamilton. Dobbs went 8/15 for 100 yards for an impressive 12.5 ypc and 1 touchdown against his 2 early interceptions. He added 1 rush for 16 yards when protection broke down, clearly demonstrating his athleticism.

Best vs Best

Landry Jones vs. the Patriots, 2016.

This video shows what’s generally considered Jones’ best game. He threw a touchdown pass and was 29 for 47 for a 61.7 completion rate and 281 yards 1 touchdown and 1 interception. That doesn’t look bad on paper but Jones threw for a measly 5.9 yards per attempt and tossed 10 very bad passes often into double or triple teams which easily could’ve resulted in two or three more interceptions. You can also see his confidence waning as the game went on with  the Steelers losing to the Patriots 27 to 16. This is his best game as a pro.

His tiny 5.9 yards per attempt number is very telling and you see that same stat over and over, starting from college. When Jones is in a big game he immediately goes into ‘small ball’ mode, only throwing check downs and underneath stuff in a desperate attempt not be responsible for losing the game. This allows defenses to come in close, pressure him more and cause him to make mistakes.

Josh Dobbs vs the Panthers, Game Four, 2017 Preseason.

By his fourth game, Dobbs was taking command of the offense and had clearly concentrated on and dramatically improved in the areas lacking in his earlier performances.

What stands out here is Josh’s confidence in his arm. He hits the long ball, 58 yards, for a touchdown right out of the gate. He threw 16/23 for an excellent 69.5 completion percentage with 212 yards, a healthy 9.2 ypa and 1 touchdown, no interceptions for a 113.0 QB rating. He added a rushing touchdown on a designed run play, as well. His mobility opens up a part the Steelers playbook that’s been closed for a long time. His arm for the long ball keeps the defenses honest.

Why Josh Dobbs is Here

Another thing I’ve maintained and taken flack for is the FACT that Kevin Colbert drafted Josh Dobbs to replace Landry Jones. I’ve been told Dobbs was drafted to be the #3, developmental QB. Looking at Colbert’s draft decision history I think it’s very clear Colbert doesn’t use 4th Rd picks on third stringers, not even at the QB position. Let’s look at what Colbert has to say about the two quarterbacks.

Kevin Colbert’s Thoughts on Landry Jones

Here’s what Colbert said about Jones in 2015. “I think he got better definitely from Year 1 to Year 2. He had more extended play this preseason. I thought there were signs where he did some things better than he did the year before. Has he progressed to the point where he beat out Bruce (Gradkowski) as the No. 2? No. Maybe he will; maybe he won’t.”

So, you tell me, does this fit the description of a GM talking about a  ‘proven backup quarterback’?

It ended up Jones never did beat out Bruce Gradkowski, who lost the job due to injury. Colbert has had precious little to say about Jones since 2015, the most notable statement when asked about Jones is ‘he knows the offensive system’.

Kevin Colbert on Joshua Dobbs

Colbert had this to say about the decision to draft Dobbs, “So, you make a judgement on do they have the skill set, the size, the arm, the athleticism to do what you’re going to want to do,” Colbert explained. “Do they have the intellect to learn NFL offenses and then have they produced within their offenses in big games? And really, in all three of those categories, Josh Dobbs checks off all the boxes. So, we know there’s upside there, we know that it is a work in progress.”

Pretty big difference from what he had to say about Landry, huh? (and actually those are six (6) categories but who’s counting?)

Let’s do a side by side scouting analysis of Dobbs and Jones.

Arm Talent

Landry Jones – Jones’ arm talent is good. He can make all the NFL throws. He doesn’t trust his arm however and will go for checkdowns instead of his primary targets. Doesn’t have the arm to force the ball into double and triple teams, though he has a habit of trying to do so.

Josh Dobbs – Dobbs is Jones equal in arm talent. Dobbs, however, shows great confidence in his arm, especially on long passes. He can throw wobblers or floaters if his feet aren’t set but he can make all the NFL passes.

Leadership/Intangibles

Landry Jones – On the field Jones is lacking in this department. He doesn’t seem to have the type of personality that gets the team behind him. As a difficult game goes on Jones seems to fade rather than step up. Lacks a short memory and gets bogged down when bad things happen.

Josh Dobbs – Dobbs is a natural leader. He believes his team will win and he believes he will be one of the main people responsible for that win. He has a short memory and can overcome early hardship and play his best at the end of games when it counts. Dobbs is also very intelligent, being an actual rocket scientist. He has already shown he is getting less confused by complex NFL defensive looks.

Mobility

Landry Jones – Is as mobile as a tree stump. He does move in the pocket but his instincts aren’t that good. He’s as prone to step up into a tackle as he is to step out of one.

Josh Dobbs – Dobbs is incredibly mobile. This not only helps him avoid the rush  in his passing game, it allows his running ability to used as an offensive weapon. Dobbs can be used in all kinds of designed run plays adding another dimension to the playbook. His mobility also helps in practice, on the scout team offense, in preparing the Steelers for mobile QBs like Jameis Winston, Cam Newton and Patrick Mahomes, all of whom are on the Steelers’ schedule this year.

Under Pressure

Landry Jones – Not good at all under pressure. Feels pressure when it’s not there. Has no escapability to avoid a bad pass rush. Makes bad decisions when trying to make things happen, forcing passes into double and triple coverage.

Josh Dobbs – Very relaxed in the pocket. Has confidence his mobility can get him out of jams if things gets hairy. Keeps his eyes down the field and doesn’t give up on the pass play until he has no other options. Can hurt teams big time with his scrambling ability.

Concerns/Areas That Need Work

Landry Jones – Can’t handle pressure. Lacks a short memory. Has trouble reading defenses. Doesn’t trust his arm. Forces passes. Has decision making problems that shouldn’t exist at this point in his career. Jones has all the same problems, now, he had year one. He’s essentially the same player he was in college with the same glaring weaknesses. Jones is 29 years old . His days as a ‘developmental QB’ are over.

Josh Dobbs – Doesn’t always get his feet set to throw, causing his passes to go astray. Can lock on to a target and telegraph his intentions. Doesn’t always show the best decision making. The good thing is Dobbs has improved every year of college and improved in his preseason play from his first game to his last.

Summing it All Up

The Steelers drafted Josh Dobbs to replace Landry Jones. Kevin Colbert’s repeated reason for keeping Jones on the roster is, ‘he knows the offensive system’. Dobbs has been around for a year. Seeing as he’s a rocket scientist, I’m sure he knows the offense by now. Dobbs improved in each game of the preseason last year. His mental errors dropped drastically from game one to game four. He throws with confidence Jones has never displayed. He’s mobile and intelligent. More importantly, he plays to win.

It’s also important to note, Dobbs is the type of QB new Offensive Coordinator  Randy Fichtner likes to develop. As a college O.C., Fichtner turned Cleo Lemon into a player who had a pro career. Josh Dobbs gives him a lot more to work with.

The Steelers have seen ‘the best’ Landry Jones has to offer, which is a QB who while being a competent passer, acts like he’s on eggshells every time he’s in the game, is terrible at reading defenses, is immobile and a lousy improviser,  who looks like he’s second guessing every throw as it leaves his fingers and has shown virtually no improvement his entire professional career. At 29 years old, Jones’ future is all used up.

Bottom line, the Steelers don’t draft players to cut them. Even if the they wanted to they couldn’t attempt to stash Dobbs on the Practice Squad as long as the Jets, Cardinals and Titans are in the NFL. The Steelers now have the emergency option of putting rookie QB Mason Rudolph in (though they won’t except under extraordinary circumstances). Dobbs has nothing but upside and all he has to do is beat out one of the worst backup QBs in the league. Again, all of this has to play out in preseason but If Dobbs doesn’t play terribly or get injured he should win the backup QB spot.

The good news is, if other teams view Landry Jones similar to the sports sites, he has some trade value. There are somewhere in the range of seven to twelve teams who would view Jones as an improvement at backup QB. It would be great if the Steelers could get a 6th or 7th rounder or a good depth player for him.

Well, that’s it for me. What do you think? Do you agree with my evaluation or do you think Jones deserves the spot behind Big Ben? If so, why?

Go Steelers!!!

Jeffrey Burton

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