Sometimes it seems like we’ve been watching Landry Jones play quarterback for Oklahoma for the better part of a decade, but in reality he’s only been the starting quarterback for the Sooner for four years, after taking over for the injured Sam Bradford early in the 2009 season. Now, after four years as a starter, is Jones a pretender or a contender with regards to being a starting quarterback in the NFL?
In such a quarterback-light draft, it’s odd that Jones has gotten a little lost in the mix after being a four-year starter at a major program. However, Jones’ performance peaked in his sophomore season when he threw for a career-high 4,718 yards with 38 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. His numbers have declined some over the past two seasons, which isn’t a good sign considering Jones was going up against a lot of mediocre defenses in the Big 12. This past season, in Oklahoma’s games against the quality defenses of Notre Dame and Texas A&M, Jones was only able to lead the Sooners to 13 points in each game, with just one touchdown and two interceptions. His lack of development over the past couple seasons has overshadowed what Jones has accomplished, his experience, and all that he does bring to the table.
The best attribute that Jones possesses is his arm strength, which is among the best of the available quarterbacks. Jones has the ability to throw outside the numbers on the edge of the field, deep beyond the safeties, as well as up the seam between the linebackers and the safeties, and all with good accuracy. Those are difficult throws, and Jones can make all of them, and looks impressive while doing so. He has the size and body to be a typical NFL pocket passer, but he also has enough mobility to be able to scramble when he needs to. Jones is also praised for his ball skills, as he uses play-action and pump fakes well, which have worked well for him while playing in a spread offense. In the NFL, he would fit in best in an offense that runs a lot of spread or pistol formations.
The physical side of Jones’ game is almost all there, but the mental side is where he lags behind. For a four-year starter Jones is not as good at his pre-snap reads as he should be. He has yet to master the art of going through his progressions, and when he doesn’t see what he wants to see he will rely on his arm too much and throw the ball up for grabs. Jones also looks uncomfortable under pressure, and will either take off running too quickly or take a sack instead of trying to throw the ball away. He has also received criticism for not responding well to deficits and struggling to rally his team when they fall behind.
So, is Jones a pretender or a contender? Pretender. The arm talent is impressive and probably would have made him a much higher draft pick a year ago. However, a quarterback with his experience should be more adept at reading defenses and NFL defenses will devour him if he doesn’t understand what they’re trying to do against him. In the right system, he could make a suitable back up and his arm strength could allow him to make some impressive throws, even on an NFL field. But Jones falls well short of having the total package necessary to be a quality starting quarterback in the NFL.