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Scouting Jets Defensive Lineman Manny Jones

Taking a look at a Jets defensive lineman

Arizona Cardinals v Tennessee Titans Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images

The Jets signed defensive lineman Manny Jones to their practice squad a few weeks ago. He hasn’t been elevated yet, but he could be someone they consider adding to the active roster this week, or signing to a futures deal after the season. Today we’re going to break Jones down in detail.

The 24-year old Jones is listed at 6’4” and 290 pounds and was undrafted out of Colorado State last season. He played in four regular season games with the Arizona Cardinals as an undrafted rookie but hasn’t played in 2023.

Background

Jones originally played lacrosse and basketball in high school, so he was a latecomer to football. In his senior year, he played middle linebacker, but his team went winless.

Despite this, Jones was ranked as a two-star edge prospect and recrited to Colorado State, where he made an impact as a freshman with 35 tackles, six tackles for loss and two sacks.

In his sophomore season, Jones posted similar numbers. He raised his game to another level as a junior with 54 tackles, eight tackles for loss and five sacks. He was named as an all-Mountain West Conference honorable mention at the end of the season.

In 2020, the Rams only played four games, but Jones started all four and was again named as an honorable mention as he posted 13 tackles and two sacks.

He returned for the 2021 season and had 45 tackles, six tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks.

Jones wasn’t invited to the NFL scouting combine, but he was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Arizona Cardinals last season. While he didn’t make the final roster, he remained on the practice squad all season and was elevated for four games, in which he recorded six tackles.

The Cardinals cut Jones in May, but he went to training camp with the Pittsburgh Steelers after being claimed off waivers. He was released in final cuts, though.

Jones spent a few weeks on the New England Patriots practice squad earlier this season, but he was without a team when the Jets signed him a few weeks ago.

According to some sources, Jones is now going by “Stephen Jones,” his father’s name. However, the Jets still list him on their official website as Manny.

Now let’s take a look at what Jones brings to the table, divided into categories.

Measurables/Athleticism

Jones was 230 pounds at the start of his college career, but he had bulked up to 280 in time for his pro day, and the Jets now list him at 290. His length is about average.

He has decent strength and explosiveness, but his agility numbers are below average. He recorded a 4.93 in the 40-yard dash and a 116” broad jump at his pro day.

Usage

As noted, Jones played as a linebacker in high school, but he was a defensive end for Colorado State his first three seasons. In his junior year, he started occasionally lining up inside and then moved to defensive tackle full time in 2020, although he would still line up outside from time to time.

At the NFL level, he’s primarily played as an interior lineman, although again he has played some outside reps in preseason and regular season action. He saw plenty of work as a 3-4 defensive end with the Steelers.

Motor

Jones is known as a player who battles hard in the trenches and gives a good effort to the whistle. Here’s a play where he hustles back to his feet to get in on the stop on a receiver screen.

He has shown that he can handle a starter’s workload by playing almost 700 snaps in his final season with the Rams. That included two games where he played over 80 snaps.

Pass rush

Despite previously playing on the edge, Jones doesn’t have a toolbox full of pass rush moves and counter-moves. His main strength was always speed-to-power, bull rushing and collapsing the pocket.

Jones had at least two sacks in each of his five college seasons and his pressure rates were solid. He wasn’t as productive in preseason and regular season action at the NFL level, but he did have one sack in preseason.

Run defense

As a converted end, you might expect Jones to be overpowered in the trenches when he lines up inside and this does happen from time to time.

However, he has shown that he is capable of shooting a gap and getting off blocks to contribute to the run defense.

Jones will also showcase the ability to penetrate with good strength and leverage from time to time.

Footwork/Technique

Jones has always been a player who plays with good leverage. While he doesn’t have an array of pass rush moves, he does display good technique against the run.

On this play, the left tackle tries to make a reach block but Jones beats it and then leans on the blocker as he works downhill, keeping his outside arm free and moving laterally to plug the hole.

Here, Jones is initially double-teamed but then one of the blockers peels off and climbs to the second level. Jones responds by getting under the pads of the remaining blocker and using a rip move to keep his outside arm free and leverage his way upfield to the ball.

Special teams

While his NFL special teams duties have been limited to rushing field goals, other than a couple of snaps as a blocker on the kick return unit, Jones has had experience of a variety of other roles during his college career.

He also operated as a blocker in punt protection and covered kicks during his college career and racked up five special teams tackles in his freshman year. It’s unlikely he’d be required to do any of this at the NFL level, though.

Tackling

Jones was a pretty productive tackler, even during preseason action, but he has had some issues with missed tackles over the years. He is often late to disengage from his block. He had 14 missed tackles in 2019 alone, but his efficiency improved since the move inside.

During his college career, Jones registered two forced fumbles, both of which were in 2019.

Coverage

Jones didn’t drop into coverage very often, but he has more experience of dropping into coverage than most interior defensive linemen, by virtue of his time playing on the edge. He recorded one interception in college.

His lack of speed and range was exploited in his freshman year when he dropped off into zone coverage on the outside against Alabama. The pass was completed to a receiver near the sideline, who cut back across the field and was untouched on his way to a 52-yard touchdown.

Jones will get his hands up to try to deflect passes, but he only had one pass defensed in his college career.

Instincts/Intelligence

Having played so many different roles, Jones has displayed some good play recognition. On this play from 2019, the Rams lined Jones up as a middle linebacker and he blew up a screen pass superbly.

Jones jumped offside twice in the same game in his final season in college, but didn’t do this again all season.

Attitude/Demeanor

Jones is described as quiet but popular, and he was named as one of 10 team leaders at Colorado State, in an exercise where one leader from each position group was selected in an effort to fix a toxic culture and demand accountability.

Other than the two offside flags, the only penalty Jones committed in his final year in college was a face mask penalty. He only had five penalties in his other four seasons combined and doesn’t have any at the NFL level, so his on-field discipline is solid.

Injuries

Jones missed the bowl game in his freshman season but otherwise hasn’t missed time in college or the pros due to injuries. He has been temporarily knocked out of multiple games with various minor injuries, but always returned.

Scheme Fit

Jones is a versatile player, but his primary role with the Jets would be as one of the two defensive tackles in four-man fronts. He has played all along the line, both standing up and with his hands in the dirt.

With the Steelers, Jones was able to play as a 3-4 defensive end which is a good fit for his size and skill-set. The Jets have also operated with some 3-4 base packages in recent games.

Jones was a teammate of current Jet Xazavian Valladay while with the Steelers.

Conclusions

The Jets have lost Al Woods, Quinton Jefferson, Tanzel Smart and Perrion Winfrey over the past few months, which meant they played Thursday night’s game with their sixth and seventh-choice defensive tackles in Jalyn Holmes and Bruce Hector providing depth off the bench.

The Jets struggled to stop the run whenever Quinnen Williams left the game, so perhaps the Jets will consider giving Jones a shot to play in the season finale to see if he can hold up any better inside than Hector and Holmes have so far.

If not, he still seems to be someone who might have some upside and profiles as the type of player the Jets like for their system, so there’s a strong chance he’ll be signed to a futures deal and brought to camp to compete next season.