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Preseason Scouting Notes: Naquan Jones, DL, Michigan State

Redshirt Senior | 6’4” 338 lbs | Evanston, IL

 

3-4 nose tackle with great size who uses his noticeable game strength and good short-area quickness to disrupt plays

 

Overview:

Naquan Jones, a 4-star prep recruit, has compiled 54 total tackles (21 Solo, 33 Assisted), 7.5 TFLs, and 3 sacks in the 39 games (only 802 credited snaps) he appeared in thus far in his Michigan State career. He has experience playing from the 0-, 1- and 3-technique spots in Michigan State’s multiple front system.

Strengths:

– Exceptional play strength that can collapse pockets against the pass and close running lanes against the run
– Flashes the ability to jump the snap on occasion
– Quick to get into hip pocket of down blockers. He can fill the gap between down blockers before the assigned blocker can get to him
– Deceptively quick in short area spaces. Great burst for his size
– Powerful initial punch and club that will push back soft anchors
– Accurate and effective hand placement on initial punch
– Rarely loses track of the ball. Vision and awareness keep him in every play
– Always plays through the whistle. Does not give up on a play until it ends

Areas to Improve:

– Tends to lose the battle for first contact with his counterpart with late hand timing
– Does not have a variety of pass rush moves. Bull rush is his only consistent move
– Below average pass rush plan. Rarely into the backfield early on
– Balance is an issue. Gets off balance a lot and can take himself out of a play
– Limited field experience serving as a backup throughout his college career

Injury Concerns:

N/A 

Way too Early Projection:

Right now, Jones best fits as a 3-4 Nose Tackle because of his explosive strength. Though he shows the ability to play in a 3-tech, his best moments come when lined up head up on or shading the center. His limited film to this point clouds his potential draft stock, but he could be seen as a solid depth piece at the NFL level if he becomes a productive fifth-year starter.

What to Watch in 2020:

New head coach Mel Tucker brought his defensive coordinator, Scottie Hazelton with him. While they employed a hybrid 3-4 at Colorado, Hazelton hinted at possibly playing to the team’s recruits, which would mean more 4-3. Jones is built better for a 3-4 defense, but he has experience playing both two- and one-gap responsibilities. The biggest question that Jones will have to answer coming into 2020 will be how effective he will be as a starter. He hasn’t played more than 300 snaps in a season, but with Raequan Williams now a Philadelphia Eagle, the starting role is his to take. He has a real chance to show off his headlining play strength, but needs to build up his pass-rush arsenal and show that he can pressure the quarterback for the entire game. Something else to watch for is his timing when initiating contact. If he creates the contact, he is in a good place to win the play, but going into next year, his ability to get his hands up first is too inconsistent to be an exceptional trait for him.