Review of Eleven Warriors: "Where Cardale Jones Must Improve"

I thought this was a very interesting and insightful article from 11W that stressed something that is often overlooked by fans. Good performance and even great performance doesn't indicate a finished product, and for those that remember Devin Gardner against Notre Dame in 2013, fans often don't heed the warnings. In that game, Gardner showed an incredible ceiling, but he also showed he still had a lot of things to work on. Once things started breaking down around him - especially on the OL - and there was more tape on his strengths and weaknesses, more teams were able to understand how to attack him and the Michigan offense with quite awful results.

For Jones, the outcome likely won't be the same. The supporting cast and the consistent scheme will still allow the offense to perform at a high level. But the goal for Ohio State isn't merely to perform at a high level. A high level wins you most games, but the Buckeyes likely aren't keen on only winning most games.

Eleven Warriors

From Kyle Jones:

After leading the team to three straight postseason wins and a national championship, few would've blamed him for leaving school to enter the NFL draft. At 6'6" and over 250 lbs with one of the strongest arms many ever have seen, scouts have every reason to fall in love with the young man's potential.

Jones would've likely been selected late in this year's draft, especially when considering that an NFL team is willing to pay Josh McCown $14 million instead of relying on a rookie from this class. But any NFL team would be betting solely on what Jones might be, as what he showed late in the 2014 season was nowhere near ready for the next level.

As Jones prepares for another season in Columbus though, his timetable for improvement may have sped up more than it would've in the NFL, given the competition for the starting quarterback job. Jones has a major leg up on Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett however, as the only of the trio healthy enough to take live snaps in practice.

While normally a multi-year starter like Miller wouldn't benefit all that much from a few weeks on scrimmaging against his own defense, this year's spring practice is more important for those in the QB room as Tim Beck replaces Tom Herman as the group's mentor, while Ed Warinner takes over calling plays.

Few fans and players expect the offensive system to change all that much with Urban Meyer still overseeing the program, but Warinner and Beck will be forced to put a great deal of trust into whomever they send out under center next fall in the opener at Virginia Tech. Simply knowing the playbook won't be enough to separate from this extremely talented pack.

However, Jones still has a long way to go in that department, as the OSU game plan was shrunk for the games in which he started, something Meyer and the other coaches won't settle for as they defend their national championship. Jones should benefit greatly from the increased amount of reps during spring ball though, especially when it comes to developing timing with receivers like Mike Thomas, Jalin Marshall, and Corey Smith.
Jones emphasizes pocket presence and through mechanics - namely footwork - as two areas where Cardale needs to take a step forward. And I agree. I commented on the article a few more areas that I think could use refinement.

A few other things I'd add:

Ball handling - He needs to improve his ability to manipulate the ball on run plays. He does some things well, but, for instance, JT has a much more convincing "rocker step", and Jones still needs to improve he ability to to have multiple play fakes for Meyer to be able to utilize all his options in the run game. Meyer was forced to go to a lot of mock-motion and counter motion to try to manipulate the defense, but defenses can start keying tendencies when you aren't able to successfully pull of the fakes with that counter motion.

Run Reads - Meyer did a very smart thing in often moving the option reads farther away from Jones or taking them away all together. This was effective in the three game stretch that he played, but as teams get more film on him, the read portion of the game needs to improve or the run game will become limited.

Reading his Movement Key in the Pass Game - He's late on his throws a lot. He got bailed out at times by great WR play (I think the most underlooked part of his success was just how much the WRs stepped up their game as soon as JT went down), but to get more consistent he needs to get the ball out on time. Meyer's offense often allows his QBs to get away a bit with somewhat late reads, as many run-based offenses do, but there are going to be times where he needs to lean on the pass game threat alone. In order to do that, he needs to have a better understanding of his movement keys. This gradually improved over the course of his play (Meyer kept the pass game against Wisconsin immensely simple to compensate early on), but he can't allow that improvement to plateau.

You touched on the pocket presence and the mechanical standpoint, particularly the footwork when throwing to the sideline. Along with the reads and mechanics, in general he just has to take care of the ball better. He got away with throwing some jump balls and had too many turnovers, especially in the National Championship game. They were able to overcome that, and they may be able to many times, but the goal for OSU isn't to "be able to overcome it many times", it's to win every game. The turnovers, the poor reads, the late reads, the mechanics, those are the inconsistencies that come back to bite you once or twice a year, perhaps even against teams that shouldn't be in the game to begin with.

The more tape on Jones, the more defenses will know how to attack weaknesses and key tendencies that Meyer and Co have already begun putting on tape. His performance at the end of last year was nothing short of amazing, but if he is satisfied with that performance and ability going forward, he won't be satisfied with the outcomes going forward, because it'll either result in some lost games or with him on the bench in favor of other QBs. He performed great and has the tools to be great, but there are certainly still things that Meyer and Beck will be working on him with to try to get him to improve.
When the guys on our team succeed, we should be happy, we should be proud, and we should boast about their accomplishments. When they have a perfect game - despite no one ever having a perfect game - we can take gratification from that. But it's also important to remember that these college football players still have a long ways to go, each and every one of them. And when they slip up, we should understand just how far they have to come to get to where they are, and just how far they have to go to prevent the disappointment from happening again.

This is one of those things that works beyond football, but to each and every one of us in our every day lives. And we also must take ownership in that when understanding how difficult it is for these players, regardless of opportunity that they have. We all have opportunities and expectations and obligations, and never have any of us lived up to all those things.

Each day that you don't improve your craft, your capabilities, and yourself as a person, is a day you've failed to meet expectations. Have high goals, improve yourself, hate failure but don't be afraid of it, and improve upon it with your next step.