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Is Josh Jobe Alabama Football’s Defensive MVP for 2020?

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Pat Surtain gets all of the attention (and rightly so), but the first year starter is playing like a grizzled, chippy veteran

Vrbo Citrus Bowl - Michigan v Alabama Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Earlier this week, Erik wrote an article grading the Alabama defense midway through the season, and awarded Josh Jobe the MVP.

Josh Jobe (CB) — Going into the season, almost every offensive coordinator knew to shy away from Surtain. Instead, they were going to try and target Jobe. That has turned out to be a huge mistake. While Jobe does not have an interception (he has dropped a few), he has 20 tackles on the year, has 4.0 tackles for loss, he has a sack, and he leads the team in PBUs. Every week he puts on a master class in how to stay in phase with your man. If anyone has made himself money every week on the defense this season, it is Jobe.

He’s also probably the meanest single player on the roster.

He of course immediately sent me a text to make sure I knew Jobe was his pick, as I’ve been quite publicly touting Jobe’s play for multiple weeks now:

Okay, so I MIGHT have gone a little overboard with my mancrush for this year’s Alabama squad. But let’s back up a bit, just where did Jobe come from?

Alabama’s 2018 recruiting class drew a lot of headlines for not being ranked #1, for once. There were some recruiting misses and the Tide wound up with fewer recruits than they had hoped. However, 5-star CB Patrick Surtain II capped off a solid group of defensive backs, including a safety/corner hybrid named Josh Jobe.

Here were my thoughts on Jobe as a 4-star prospect out of Connecticut:

Pros

Jobe is a savvy, assignment-aware player with good tackling form and technique. He does a great job of getting himself in position before the ball ever gets to a spot and displays good field awareness by making tackles in certain directions to keep ball carriers from getting first downs.

He’s at his best in deep zone coverage and patrolling the back part of the field, though he does have enough versatility to come up to the line of scrimmage and press a receiver if needed.

Oh, and he plays tailback in an I-formation on short yardage downs. I figure you Alabama folks can appreciate that.

Cons

Overall, Jobe is a pretty well-rounded player without many negatives to his game. He isn’t blazing fast like Armour-Davis or Eddie Smith, but he’s fast enough to do anything he needs to do. I’d say the biggest criticism I can offer is that he doesn’t absolutely excel in something to really stand out above the rest.

Jobe didn’t really see any playing time as freshman that 2018 season, while Surtain lived up to his lofty recruiting rankings to earn the starting job at the beginning of the season.

However, in the biggest game of the season against the best team in football, Jobe found himself having to take on Clemson’s Justyn Ross unexpectedly. Alabama had already lost future 2nd round draft pick Trevon Diggs to a broken leg, and then his backup, Saivion Smith, turned his ankle (or knee, or something... I try not to think about that day too much) after getting absolutely toasted at the line of scrimmage.

Jobe did find himself on the wrong end of a highlight play as Ross made a backwards one-handed catch right over his head, but he was also competitive on every target, getting one pass break-up and a couple of tackles (which was a lot better than the 10-15 yards of open space his predecessor was giving up).

The following offseason, Jobe caught some eyes in the A-Day game as he obviously bulked up a bit and made a couple of emphatic tackles, including body-slamming DeVonta Smith. Jobe wound up winning the starting job at cornerback against Duke, but drew a couple of pass interferences and a personal foul, leading to Nick Saban publicly mentioning that he needs to work on reigning in his emotions.

The senior Shyheim Carter wound up pushing Jobe back to the bench, where he played as a spot reserve all season. Senior Trevon Diggs wound up opting out of the bowl game against Michigan, and Jobe got another chance to start. He performed spectacularly, making 5 tackles, breaking up one pass, and intercepting another.

Enter the 2020 season. With Diggs and Carter both moving on, Jobe was the odds-on favorite to win the other starting corner job alongside Surtain, but it was not a foregone conclusion, and he entered the season with only 2 games of actual starting experience under his belt.

However, instead of looking like a first year starter, Jobe has stepped in, stepped up, and looked like a nearly flawless veteran from day one. And, because I’m me and can be a bit obsessive at times, I decided that the stats recorded for cornerbacks weren’t good enough, and I went back and watched every single snap the Jobe has played so far this season, making a note of any time he was involved in a play. Here were the results of his very first game:

Missouri

-Prevented a first down by making a tackle after 1 yard gain

-Forced fumble on a QB run

-Broke up a 3rd down sideline fade

-Tackled a RB downfield

-Hit the QB on a blitz

-Tackled a RB downfield, flipping him onto his back

-Prevented a 3rd down conversion by forcing a RB out of bounds

-Gave up 10 yards on a curl

-Tackle for loss on WR screen

-Tackle on RB

-Sack

-Broke up another downfield fade

-Made a TD saving tackle after the rest of the defense missed


How’s that for a debut? In the 13 times the ball came near him, he made a positive, useful play on 12 of them. Two games later, against Georgia (a top 4 team in the nation), was when Jobe really started to catch my eye. There were the two pass breakups across the middle on 3rd down (one that was intercepted of the deflection by Malachi Moore), but, even more importantly was his stop on the wide receiver reverse I referenced in my Tweet above.

It was a cleverly disguised reverse that had the entire Alabama defense sprinting to the right sideline as the UGA receiver sprinted back to the left. I audibly groaned when I saw it, until I noticed a lone man still on the left sideline. Josh Jobe went full basketball defense mode and kept his feet shuffling laterally to stay directly in front of the ball carrier despite about 15 yards of empty space in all directions. He made what should have been a nearly impossible open-field tackle against an SEC ball carrier, turning what should have been a 20+ yard gain into a 4-yard run.

He did find his way onto the camera again later in the game as he body slammed the much larger George Pickens on the sidelines when Pickens overextended trying to block him. He drew a penalty for “holding” on that one, but it was absolutely worth the 5 yards in intimidation factor, in my opinion.


Through six games this season, here’s what I’ve charted from Jobe:

Targets: 25

Catches: 8

Yards: 53

1st downs: 4

TDs: 1

Tackles: 16

Missed Tackles: 2

Forced Fumbles: 1

Body slams/Flips: 3

In other words, he’s giving up a 32% completion percentage and all of 2.12 yards per target, and 0.3 yards per route covered (for reference, 1.5 yards per route is a normal number for an average NFL cornerback). On the catches he has given up, three of them were third down plays where he made the tackle before the receiver got the first down.

(To be transparent, though, Tennessee’s Jarrett Guarantano gave him three freebies by technically targeting his man, but threw it into the dirt or 5 feet over their heads)

Tackling-wise, he’s right at 90% efficiency, with over half of his tackles coming against running backs rather than receivers. He’s blitzed 5 times, hit the QB once, sacked him once, and would have gotten a TFL on a read option but was taken out by friendly fire from Christian Harris. He’s blown up the blockers on 2 wide receiver screens, allowing a teammate to get a tackle for loss.

Those aren’t the kind of numbers you see from a solid year one starter. That’s the production you see from an elite veteran. He’s rarely targeted, and when he is, it’s incomplete. And the rare times it’s not incomplete, he immediately makes the tackle. If you’re the type that likes success rates, he’s giving up a success rate of 16% when targeted.

And, to be clear, he’s not doing this with bracketed safety help on every play, or getting out of “targets” by technically being in zone. He plays press-man coverage the majority of his snaps, usually on the opposing team’s biggest outside receiver (he was 1 on 1 with George Pickens almost the whole game against Georgia), and more often than not is pressing that receiver right on out of bounds after the snap.

Tack that on with the body slam every other game, and, well, we’re right back to Erik’s quote from earlier this week:

“He’s also probably the meanest single player on the roster.”