There were plenty of standout performances during the Las Vegas Raiders’ dominant Week 15 win over the Los Angeles Chargers on Thursday Night Football last week. But cornerback Jack Jones might have taken the cake as the most impressive player on the field for the Raiders.
According to Pro Football Focus, Jones was targeted three times and only allowed one catch for two yards while making arguably the play of the night with a leaping, one-handed pick-six to set the franchise record for most points in a game. His performance was so impressive that he ended the week as PFF’s highest-graded cornerback with an elite mark of 94.2. That figure was also tops among the Silver and Black’s defensive players.
So, let’s flip on the tape and dive into how the second-year pro put together such an outstanding outing.
We’ll start with the least impressive clip and work our way up, and a big reason why this rep is included is to show how Jones is a willing run defender, unlike his predecessor...
The Chargers run duo and the cornerback is pretty quick to read the play as he recognizes that the tight end motioned to his side of the formation while the receiver works toward the opposite sideline pre-snap. From there, we see his willingness to get involved in the run-fit by coming downhill and filling the C-gap.
That gives Las Vegas one more defender in the box, shifting the numbers advantage in the defense’s favor as Los Angeles runs out of blockers to account for Jones. While Robert Spillane is the primary reason why this play goes for a short gain, Jones gets involved in the tackle to help his teammate out.
Is this play going to make the end-of-year highlight reel? Hell no, but the willingness to get involved in the running game is nice to see as effort is often the biggest factor in a cornerback’s ability to defend the run.
Now, onto Jones’ bread and butter; coverage.
He’s locked in man coverage against Quentin Johnston, the Chargers’ first-round pick. Johnston is running a corner-post route where he takes a jab step before breaking toward the corner and then changes directions again to run the post.
However, Jones doesn’t bite on the fakes to stay on top of the route and uses his hands and flips his hips to stay in phase as the ball falls incomplete. That’s a great job of trusting his instincts and using his athletic ability/fluid hips to maintain air-tight coverage.
What’s impressive about this rep is Jones seems to know something is up pre-snap when the slot receiver motions across the formation or to his side of the field. So, he adjusts his leverage to be on the outside of Gerald Everett, who is a natural tight end and has about 75 pounds on him.
The corner’s instincts were correct as the Chargers are essentially running screen on third and four with Everett clearing the way for the receiver running the flat route. However, Jones knows what’s coming and gets physical with the tight end to hold his ground and maintain his leverage.
To finish, Jones closes on the route and makes contact right as the ball gets to the receiver to make the stop and force a punt. Again, he was giving up quite a bit of size to Everett which is a big part of what makes this rep so impressive.
We’ll end with the pick-six and it’s pretty clear that Jones spent a lot of time in the film room ahead of the game despite the short week.
He begins the play lined up out wide across from Austin Ekeler, who has been one of the league’s best-receiving backs for several years. When Ekeler goes in motion, Jones quickly recognizes that it’s to set up a screen behind the three receivers in the bunch formation.
So, the cornerback drives on the screen, and by the time the outside receiver recognizes it, Jones is already across the line of scrimmage. To finish, he makes an amazing play to get up and snag the one-handed interception for six points.
In summary, the young corner’s instincts and athletic ability were on full display last Thursday.