I've been banging the drum for a little while now that the Steelers need to think about a more stable backup QB for Ben Roethlisberger. Those concerns were addressed when the team signed Bruce Gradkowski to a three-year deal. Still, ...
I've been banging the drum for a little while now that the Steelers need to think about a more stable backup QB for Ben Roethlisberger. Those concerns were addressed when the team signed Bruce Gradkowski to a three-year deal. Still, the quarterback position was among the oldest on the team. Gradkowski is certainly a nice stopgap who is capable of filling in if and when Ben misses time, but the Steelers knew they needed a younger (and cheaper) option as a backup.
So, in a draft class that was really lacking in potential franchise quarterbacks, Kevin Colbert targeted a backup. In the fourth round, the Steelers brought Landry Jones into the picture. Jones had one heck of a career in the NCAA as Sam Bradford's backup and eventual replacement, but a quarterback doesn't fall to the fourth round without some faults.
Scouting reports according to people who know more about college football than I do point to Jones' difficulties under pressure and erratic downfield accuracy as the red flags that likely dropped him into the middle rounds. He has the size, quick release, and has been able to read (admittedly mediocre) college defenses. He certainly isn't the running type of QB that are all the rage in the NCAA these days, but then again, those types don't typically succeed in the NFL.
It's hard to find an NFL quarterback, and it's hard to project a draft pick at the game's premiere position. For every Sam Bradford, there's a JaMarcus Russell. For every Matt Ryan, there's a Tim Couch. Joe Flacco, Brady Quinn. Ben Roethlisberger, JP Losman. So it's an excercise in futility to try and predict Landry Jones' career path. That didn't stop Charlie Batch, though, who fathomed that Jones may be the eventual replacement for Big Ben himself.
Jones appears to have the physical toolset to succeed in the NFL, but that's only half the battle. Maintaining composure under pressure, reading defenses correctly, and keeping a consistent touch on his passes at every range are things Jones is going to have to improve to have a future in the NFL.
As with many of the Steelers' rookies this year, Jones will drop into a perfect situation to work on those things. As the #3 on the depth chart, there will [ideally] be minimal pressure on him to get on the field and perform. He'll work with two veterans in Roethlisberger and Gradkowski. He'll be brought up in an atmosphere that prefers to take time to develop young players. He'll be coached and molded to try and fix the problems in his game, most of which are mental errors.
If Charlie Batch is right, and the Steelers turn Landry Jones into their next franchise quarterback, then the 115th overall pick would end up being the most important pick in a decade. That's not terribly likely, so let's set our expectations a bit lower for the young man. By the time Bruce Gradkowski moves on (assuming he doesn't turn into Charlie Batch and be the backup in his hometown for a hundred years), Landry should at least be able to step in and not make the mistakes that lose games. He has plenty of time to get to that level, and he'll have plenty of help.
One big downside to the kid: He is named after Dallas Cowboys head coach Tom Landry. Will he suffer the same fate as the similarly-named Dallas Baker?