It’s no secret the Detroit Lions need pass rushing help. Easily the most mocked position to the Lions this offseason has been either an edge or interior pass rusher, so the question isn’t if a pass rusher is drafted but when and how many times?
Whether the team takes a pass rusher in the early rounds or not, they’re probably going to be looking at the mid or late rounds to add more and one of the players the team has taken a shine to early in the draft process is Ja’Von Rolland-Jones out of Arkansas State.
Ja’Von Rolland-Jones (Juh-Vahn Roh-Lend Jones)
Defensive End/Rush Linebacker
Weight: 243 pounds
Current Projection: Fifth Round
With Teryl Austin down in Cincinnati, we no longer have to talk only about pass rushers that are 6-foot-5 or higher and 265 plus in weight. Lions vice president of player personnel Kyle O’Brien has been down at the East-West Shrine Game practices and our sources have told us that he was speaking very highly of the talented Sun Belt pass rusher. Teams generally meet with nearly every player at these all star games, but you don’t often get to hear what they’re saying about the players themselves, so to find a player being spoken of so positively by someone so highly placed is notable.
The beginning of Rolland-Jones’ college career started with injury. Suffering a season ending injury in 2013 that forced a redshirt, he quickly changed the story from a lost season to how promising his career could be. After ten very strong games as a freshman, he suffered another season ending injury that caused him to miss the final few games of the year. While we were unable to determine the nature of those injuries, it would be the final time injury slowed him down, anyways. He has been healthy through his final three college seasons where he racked up big time sacks.
We don’t have a projection card this time as the RAS application, yes application, is down for repairs. At under 6-foot-2 and around 245 pounds, JRJ wouldn’t have even been considered in a Teryl Austin defense. As it is, he falls right in line with the general size of Matt Patricia’s pass rushing linebackers. Athletically on tape, I wouldn’t say he pops the way someone like T.J. Watt or Haason Reddick did, but he looks to be a more than capable athlete.
2014 - 30 tackles, 7.5 sacks, 12.0 TFL, 1PD, 2FF, 1FR
2015 - 37 tackles, 8.5 sacks, 12.5 TFL, 1PD, 4FF 1INT
2016 - 56 tackles, 13.0 sacks, 19.5 TFL, 1FF, 1FR
2017 - 56 tackles, 13.0 sacks, 19.0 TFL, 1PD, 3FF, 1FR
Ja’Von Rolland Jones is the most prolific pass rusher in Sun Belt history. Did I say Sun Belt history? It’s not just the Sun Belt, he has the most sacks of any player since 2005 and only just came short of the all time record. He led the team in sacks and tackles for loss in each of the last four years, including 2014, when he missed the final three games.
Racking up 42 sacks for Arkansas State, he became the all time leader in sacks for the conference. He was also selected as the Sun Belt Player of the Year in 2016, the first defensive player to receive the award since 2003. If that wasn’t enough, he won it again in 2017, becoming one of only a handful of players who had won the award twice. Needless to say, production and accolades have not been an issue for him.
With the expectation that Matt Patricia will be the Lions new head coach, a player like Rolland-Jones is very intriguing. I was first turned on to him by a friend who mentioned him in passing before the first Shrine practices had begun, so I was already digging into him when I received news of the Lions’ alleged interest. As you’d expect given his stats, his highlight reel is something else, but his game tape isn’t much less impressive. Similar to Jalen Reeves-Maybin, there are some holes to his game as a tackler and he can get over-aggressive at times. Still, this is a player worth looking at as the draft process continues and he’s one I’m going to be paying very close attention to in the Shrine Game.