University of Washington

Strong work ethic, copious film study helped Sidney Jones develop into an All-Pac-12 cornerback

UW’s Sidney Jones, on turf, helps force a Utah State fumble. He forced three fumbles, had four picks in 2015.
UW’s Sidney Jones, on turf, helps force a Utah State fumble. He forced three fumbles, had four picks in 2015. The Associated Press

When Jimmy Lake wants to show the Washington Huskies’ defensive backs how to properly execute a certain coverage or technique, he turns, as most assistants do, to his “teach tape.”

This is simply a cut-up of defensive backs playing the right way with proper fundamentals.

This year, it also doubled as a Sidney Jones highlight reel.

Lake so frequently uses Jones’ steady play as a teaching tool, in fact, that some of his teammates have started calling him “Sidney Lake,” a playful poke at what can seem at times to be a teacher’s-pet-like relationship between player and coach.

“This is how you do it. This is what it looks like,” Lake tells the group. “If you want to do a really good job of this certain bump coverage that we teach, here is Example A, and it’s usually Sidney.

“There’s no doubt. It’s him, over and over and over.”

Jones, a sophomore from Diamond Bar, California, now has the accolades to reinforce his coach’s praise: Along with sophomore safety Budda Baker, Jones was named first-team All-Pac-12 after anchoring a UW secondary that finished the regular season with 15 interceptions and allowed only nine touchdown passes.

Jones had the best statistical season of any defensive back on the team. He intercepted four passes — one shy of the Pac-12 lead — and returned one for a touchdown. He forced three fumbles — tied for the Pac-12 lead — recovered two, and returned one for a touchdown. And he tied for the Pac-12 lead with 13 passes defended.

Simply put, Jones already has developed into perhaps the conferecence’s best cover corner, an ascent hastened by his work ethic. After he started 12 games as a true freshman last season, Jones said Lake challenged him to “take your game to the next level.”

That, he said, meant watching even more film — the two already meet for additional one-on-one sessions in Lake’s office — looking even closer for tendencies he could exploit on the field.

“Freshman year was just watching it, looking at the play and just not too much thinking it through,” Jones said. “This year is just looking at my matchup, looking at his release and just dissecting that player, and the other players if they come to my side. Just put it together from there.”

It is this kind of study that led to what Jones considers his biggest improvement: play recognition. As he puts it: “Being able to know when plays are about to occur and what’s about to come to me.”

Lake sees this, too.

“He’s running the route for the receiver before the guy’s even breaking, off his film study, from splits to the formation they’re in,” Lake said. “And then once he sees it, his burst and his athleticism that gets him to the ball so quick — he’s so technically sound.”

And patient. This is something Jones said he learned from watching film of Seattle Seahawks All-Pro Richard Sherman, and it’s something his teammates identify as one of Jones’ more valuable skills. It goes back to his work ethic.

“That’s something that takes repetition,” said UW junior cornerback Kevin King. “That’s something that takes practice and practice, over and over again. You have to train your mind, train your body to, in a real pressure situation, be able to relax and get that done and have that type of patience out there.”

King said he knows when Jones is watching film, because he will send him Snapchat videos of certain plays.

“He’s already probably even watched every game Southern Miss has played, and we haven’t even really started game-planning on that,” King said of UW’s bowl opponent.

They joke, too. If King “gets shook” on a play, Jones might send him a video of the slip-up, or he might send one of his own. Such is the life of a cornerback — the game does not reward those who sulk in response to failure, and Jones seems to grasp that concept.

“He’ll get a couple balls caught on him, and it doesn’t matter,” Lake said. “He just moves on, next play, and then he’ll get an interception for a touchdown. He’s just that type of player.”

In the offseason, Jones said, he watches film of previous UW games, just like the rest of his teammates. But he also watches NFL games, particularly those of the league’s top corners — Patrick Peterson, Darrelle Revis, and, of course, Sherman — though despite their current proximity, Jones said he and Sherman are not yet acquainted.

“I worked out with him in high school one time,” Jones said, “but he probably doesn’t remember.”

In time, Sidney Jones’ name might be difficult to forget.