Jonathan Jennings Second Full Season as a Starter

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Blitz
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Tue Mar 21, 2017 7:04 am

Jonathan Jennings will begin his second full season as a starter in 2017.

Jennings, chosen by Jeff Tedford amongst 11 quarterback hopefuls in 2015, started the last 6 games for us in 2015 and demonstrated that he had something special.

As Lowell Ullrich notes in an article posted below:
The 24-year-old more than validated the faith shown in him by former coach Jeff Tedford during the quarterback’s first season with Wally Buono on the sidelines.
Jennings threw for 5,226 yards, the third-highest total in franchise history, and started every game as a sophomore.
Jonathan Jennings is being paid a base salary of $175,000 this season. That is a very low salary for a player who threw for the third highest total yards in franchise history in his first season as a full time starter. Travis Lulay makes more base salary as the backup quarterback.

Jennings requested a salary hike last season, prior to training camp and after Buono had named Jennings as his starting quarterback for the 2017 season. At first Buono balked at the requested salary hike but did give Jennings an increase.

However, rather than tying up Jennings for a longer term, Jennings is only signed for this 2017 season and has a window to try the NFL after this season, should he go in that direction.

One thing is for sure. Should Jennings want to stay and Wally want to entice him to stay, he will need to give Jennings a substantial raise. Unless Buono can keep Jennings salary substantially below his value, it will be difficult to keep paying Lulay the backup salary that he enjoys now.

My hope is that Wally will offer Jennings a new contract prior to or during this season. There are obvious reasons why Jennings would want to stay, if we payed him a CFL starters salary with the most obvious being that he gets to be a starting quarterback.

The Stamps locked up Bo Levi Mitchell in 2015 through to 2018. Edmonton signed Mike Reilly to a contract extension in 2015 too that locked him up to the end of 2018. Montreal signed Darian Durrant to a $400,000 contract.

We should be trying to sign Jonathan Jennings to a contract extension now.

Jennings marriage with Lions keeps growing
Posted on March 19, 2017 by Lowell Ullrich

 
Jon Jennings was all ears as always when it came time to talk shop with Travis Lulay but it was what the backup quarterback of the B.C. Lions said to the starter about his new life off the field that could benefit him the most.

Face it, every married male on the planet could relate.

Jennings left bachelorhood on New Year’s Eve in Maui, a wedding attended by Lulay and his wife, and before much time had passed after the ceremony the father of two passed on a little advice about spouses.

“They’re always right,” Jennings relayed with a little grin what Lulay told him, proving again he is as good at accepting pointers in the real world as learning about operating an offence in the frenzied world of three-down football.

Truth is, what will win brownie points at home is still the right approach for Jennings as he approaches his second year as a CFL starter. After what he did in his first full season behind centre Jennings has established a lofty threshold to cross in the Lions’ quest to win a West Division final and finally return to a Grey Cup game.

The 24-year-old more than validated the faith shown in him by former coach Jeff Tedford during the quarterback’s first season with Wally Buono on the sidelines. Jennings threw for 5,226 yards, the third-highest total in franchise history, and started every game as a sophomore.

Jennings and Lulay came to Vancouver on their own this week to review last year and to look ahead to the May 28 opening of training camp. The starter doesn’t view a repeat of last year as an unattainable goal where pass yards are concerned, but his success has led him to think more can be achieved by taking his foot slightly off the pedal in the season ahead.

Jennings gave the Lions a much-needed shot of adrenalin in a marketplace which has yet to fully embrace his achievements, throwing for more completions (40) in excess of 30 yards last season. But it was Jennings who referenced up his league-high 15 interceptions as a grounds for improvement when he sat down with Lulay and offensive coordinator Khari Jones this week. He vows to keep throwing the deep ball, not the stupid ball.

“Turnovers are going to pop up; I’ve got to continue to be patient,” said Jennings when asked about his takeaways from last season. “My tendency to play aggressive hurts me sometimes. I’ve got to know when I can take a shot and when I can take a sack or throw the ball away.”

If Jennings does add one of the few missing attributes to his game and matches his first full season, the Lions could well find themselves in a situation similar to this winter when five players signed futures contracts in the NFL, only they will be trying to absorb the loss of their offensive leader.

In exchange for pulling down a reported $175,000 as a base salary this year, Jennings has a similar NFL option window after this season. Even if he does return to B.C. in 2018, the Lions would almost certainly have to renegotiate a deal that bumps up to $300,000 with another standout CFL season, which is one big reason Lulay wasn’t being traded as rumored to Saskatchewan a few weeks back.

For now, Buono has successfully mastered a transition at the most important position on the field, and knowing the Lions are a lukewarm success at best currently in the Lower Mainland, added considerable spark by somehow landing receiver Chris Williams in free agency.

Williams will have his training camp reps structured, Buono said, owing to season-ending ACL surgery last year, but between him and fellow injured receiver Nick Moore the Lions feel they can withstand the potential loss of Canadian Shawn Gore to retirement despite any ratio implications.

In the middle of the off-season, the Lions are in a comfort zone, at least on offence, with Jennings at ease with a familiar scheme and few conversions to make for the time being.

“This is really a luxury,” said Lulay, who has bonded off the field with Jennings much as he did with Mike Reilly before he left to become a cornerstone quarterback in Edmonton.

“The last couple of years it’s been new at this time of year. After going into ‘14 it was new with Khari, going into ‘15 it was (Tedford) and George (Cortez). Last year it was Khari and (new receivers coach) Marcel Bellefeiulle restamping. We feel head and shoulders better. The foundation is so much more exciting.”

There’s still the small matter of replacing the leadership of Adam Bighill, Ryan Phillips plus four other defensive starters. But the uncertainty that came prior to last year with an unproven quarterback is a thing of the past looking ahead for the Lions. It’ll also help Jennings knows to take out the trash when asked.
 
Lowell Ullrich

Lowell Ullrich has covered the Lions since 1999 and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2014. He is also a contributor to TSN1040.
"When I went to Catholic high school in Philadelphia, we just had one coach for football and basketball. He took all of us who turned out and had us run through a forest. The ones who ran into the trees were on the football team". (George Raveling)

Lionsfan65
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Tue Mar 21, 2017 10:05 am

One thing about Wally is he has never stood in the way of players in their option years pursuing the NFL, and if they get the opportunity to play on the big stage, for more money good on them.
If I'm not mistaken I believe Jennings' salary is set to increase in 2018 to about $300,000 should he stay with the team. While much has been said recently about Wally lowballing players, I think this is a fair number for Jennings, considering Bo Levi Mitchell makes about $360,000.
I'm not sure about Jennings' chances in the NFL though, even if he does make it as a practice roster player or a #2 or #3 QB he will still make twice as much as he would be up here.
That being said, while there is no questioning his amazing talent, most NFL coaches still prefer their QB to be in the 6'4 220+ pocket passer style. There are a few exceptions, notably 5'11 Russell Wilson, and 6'0 Drew Brees, both of whom have carved out successful careers. IMO Jennings is a better passer than Wilson, however Wilson is more mobile. I think Jennings is a lot like Drew Brees, a really good passer who can run the ball too.

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JohnHenry
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Sun Mar 26, 2017 8:54 am

Jennings is under contract for the next two seasons, with a supposed NFL tryout window after this season. If he has another great season in 2017, I'm sure the Lions will tender a contract extension that would pay JJ like a premium starter (unless they have Cap issues :wink: ).

Some may question his league-leading 15 Int's last year in 18 games, we should remember Doug Flutie threw 73 Int's in his first 3 CFL regular seasons, and that was after 5 years as a pro, starting games in the USFL and NFL.

Another factor in Jennings Interception totals is he throws longer pass completions than any other QB in the league by a fair margin. JJ averaged 14.1 yds per pass completion in 2016, compared with R. Ray 10.8; M. Nichols 11.2; D. Durant 11.6; M. Reilly 12.4 and T. Harris 13.6.

In 2016, Jennings went 371 of 554 (67.0%) - 5226 yds = 14.1 yds per completion - 27 Tds - 15 Ints - 102 QB Rating...which is pretty darn good for a 24-yr-old, second-year starter. He is terrific at identifying targets long downfield and throwing picture-purrfect passes in stride.

While Jennings chooses to throw the ball downfield rather than run it, I wouldn't discount his modest rushing stats as a lack of ability (as compared to Flutie or R. Wilson, for example). Let's not forget Jon's spectacular game-winning TD scramble vs. the Bombers last season. The truth is QB's often take a beating when scrambling (see M. Reilly) and it's probably smart to let J. Johnson or C. Rainey carry the mail...or better yet throw long-bombs to A. Arseneux, B. Burnham and now C. Williams.

I believe Jon has the ability, character and leadership qualities be a premier QB in the NFL, if given the opportunity to play (although I did say the same thing about Lions' T. Lulay and M. Reilly in the past). :wink:

DanoT
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Sun Mar 26, 2017 10:06 am

AFAIK Jennings gets a guaranteed $60k bonus at the start of this season and next, in addition to the already mentioned base salary.

As for Jennings post 2017 NFL tryout window, in addition to his already mentioned small size, the other strike against Jennings from an NFL point of view is that Jennings played in a small university football program.

In terms of being a small sized accurate passer, Jennings is a lot like Ray and Dickenson both of whom had an opportunity to be career NFL backups but chose to start (and star) in the CFL instead.

Blitz
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Mon Mar 27, 2017 8:47 am

JohnHenry wrote:Jennings is under contract for the next two seasons, with a supposed NFL tryout window after this season. If he has another great season in 2017, I'm sure the Lions will tender a contract extension that would pay JJ like a premium starter (unless they have Cap issues :wink: ).

Some may question his league-leading 15 Int's last year in 18 games, we should remember Doug Flutie threw 73 Int's in his first 3 CFL regular seasons, and that was after 5 years as a pro, starting games in the USFL and NFL.

Another factor in Jennings Interception totals is he throws longer pass completions than any other QB in the league by a fair margin. JJ averaged 14.1 yds per pass completion in 2016, compared with R. Ray 10.8; M. Nichols 11.2; D. Durant 11.6; M. Reilly 12.4 and T. Harris 13.6.

In 2016, Jennings went 371 of 554 (67.0%) - 5226 yds = 14.1 yds per completion - 27 Tds - 15 Ints - 102 QB Rating...which is pretty darn good for a 24-yr-old, second-year starter. He is terrific at identifying targets long downfield and throwing picture-purrfect passes in stride.

While Jennings chooses to throw the ball downfield rather than run it, I wouldn't discount his modest rushing stats as a lack of ability (as compared to Flutie or R. Wilson, for example). Let's not forget Jon's spectacular game-winning TD scramble vs. the Bombers last season. The truth is QB's often take a beating when scrambling (see M. Reilly) and it's probably smart to let J. Johnson or C. Rainey carry the mail...or better yet throw long-bombs to A. Arseneux, B. Burnham and now C. Williams.

I believe Jon has the ability, character and leadership qualities be a premier QB in the NFL, if given the opportunity to play (although I did say the same thing about Lions' T. Lulay and M. Reilly in the past). :wink:
Great post John Henry. Jennings had an incredible season in his first full year as a starter and our vertical long and long intertermediate style of passing offence played a role in his interception total. It was a higher reward/high risk offence that Jennings made work due to his incredible long ball accuracy. No one discouraged him to play higher percentage football...in fact he was encouraged to attack defenses deep, often against double coverage (and even with the lead late in games). With Jennings incredible accuracy, quick release, and high velocity throws and Manny and Burnham making incredible plays on the football too, our offence was dangerous and led the CFL in big plays.

When we were successful with this style of passing offence (and so often we were) Wally basked in the accolades, Khari Jones enjoyed the recognition of coordinating the CFL's most dangerous passing attack, and Travis Lulay was quoted in story after story about his mentorship of Jennings. But when Jennings threw an interception, the 'problem' was that he was inexperienced, had to 'learn', and was forced to be the only one to take responsibility.

Jennings was second in CFL rushing for quarterbacks last season, finishing with 363 yards. Mike Reilley led the CFL in quarterback rushing with 403 yds. (40 yds more). Bo Levi Mitchell for Calgary only ran for 70 yards last season.

There were occasions that Jennings could have run the football but he prefers to run with his head up, when he breaks the pocket, always looking for a receiver rather than being a run first quarterback when breaking contain. I would love to see us use him on the zone read option because he could threaten the edge and open up the inside zone read if we used him more that way.

It sgoing to be exciting to watch Jennings in his second full year as a starter.
"When I went to Catholic high school in Philadelphia, we just had one coach for football and basketball. He took all of us who turned out and had us run through a forest. The ones who ran into the trees were on the football team". (George Raveling)

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JohnHenry
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Thu Mar 30, 2017 6:02 am

Yes, the Lions offence should be a treat to watch this season, hopefully the OL will gel quickly and allow Jennings the time to find his receivers. I'm surprised Jon was the 2nd-leading QB rusher last season as he didn't seem to run that much? I guess most of the QB's now are pocket passers, not scramblers, content with high-percentage passes underneath. At least the Lions attacked downfield last year, but JJ's recent comments about playing smarter and bit more cautious (to avoid turnovers) might signal a more conservative offensive approach. His 15 Int's last year would have been terrific a decade or two ago, considering he passed for over 5,000 yds. :thup:

Blitz
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Thu Mar 30, 2017 9:17 am

JohnHenry wrote:Yes, the Lions offence should be a treat to watch this season, hopefully the OL will gel quickly and allow Jennings the time to find his receivers. I'm surprised Jon was the 2nd-leading QB rusher last season as he didn't seem to run that much? I guess most of the QB's now are pocket passers, not scramblers, content with high-percentage passes underneath. At least the Lions attacked downfield last year, but JJ's recent comments about playing smarter and bit more cautious (to avoid turnovers) might signal a more conservative offensive approach. His 15 Int's last year would have been terrific a decade or two ago, considering he passed for over 5,000 yds. :thup:
No question John Henry.

Jonathan Jennings, unlike a Casey Printers or a Travis Lulay, when he runs downfield, has his head up, and still looking to throw downfield. Jennings could run the football more often but he is a pass first quarterback. When he does run the football, his speed is deceptive, he usually gets down quickly, and his run stats last season (336 yards) were only 60 yards shy of Travis Lulays' run stats (396 yds) of rushing in his MOP 2011 Grey Cup season.

Watch Jennings again run by Loffler in the WSF for his electrifying touchdown to win the game for us, with 66 seconds left, and you can see his deceptive speed.

Janathan Jennings may have the best arm of any quarterback who played in a Leos uniform in terms of release, accuracy, deep ball, and velocity combined. He has incredible pocket prescence for his limited experience and he also reads defences incredibly well for his experience as well. Because he can throw such an accurate deep ball, he challenges double coverage, when throwing to Manny and Burnham, which is not common practice in terms of football strategy but he was also encouraged to do so in 2016, and was mostly very successful doing so last season.

Gotta give Tedford credit for seeing the potential in Jennings over bigger star quarterback pedigrees in 2015, when we brought in a bevy of quarterback hopefuls. Coming from little known Saginaw Valley State, no CFL team was interested in Jennings services for 2014 (the Riders gave him a look) and he sat out the whole year and didn't play football.

Jenninings plans to be more careful with the football this season by his comments but he also needs help. Our coaching staff needs to to provide him with a passing offence that includes a shorter passing game when defences align to take away our deep ball and double cover our best receivers. We also need to give Jennings more quick underneath options against blitzes and a screen game. In the running attack, if we gave Jennings the zone read option to utilize, he could also take advantage of defenses stacking against our inside run on second down and short.

An attack style vertical passing game challenges a defence. Its an aggressive strategy that I like overall. But we also need to add a few more more horizontal pass plays (eg: crossing patterns, rub routes, quick slants, etc) that incorporate a bit of a West Coast flavor so we can stretch defenses both vertically and horizontally. The best passing offence attacks all layers of a devertically and all areas of the field horizontally as well - the concept is to 'stretch' a defense in all areas of the field. Calgary is a team that does that. They can hurt a defence in every way - choose your poison.

Most CFL Most Outstanding Players have been quarterbacks and most have not win the award until they were 28 years old or older. Jennnings is still very young. My hope is that Wally will sign Jennings to an extension at the end of this season. Jennings has an NFL window at the end of 2017 but is under contract until the end of 2008.

We could roll the cards but to me, it would be wise to renogiate with Jennings before the end of this season and tie him up past 2018 rather than have him become a free agent at the end of 2018. If we did that, it would likely mean that we could not afford Lulay past 2017.

I also hope that we really take a look at some quarterback hopefuls this season. Last year we went with Price as our third stringer and it looks as if we plan to continue with Price this year. The only other quarterback behind Jennigns and Lu.ay, who will be in training camp that I am aware of right now is Alex Ross, who had an outstanding collegiate career at Coastal Carolina, playing for the 'infamous' Chanticleers who competed in the Big South Conference at the time. Ross can throw and run and it will be interesting to see if he is training camp fodder or if he will be given a legitimate opportunity to beat out Price.
"When I went to Catholic high school in Philadelphia, we just had one coach for football and basketball. He took all of us who turned out and had us run through a forest. The ones who ran into the trees were on the football team". (George Raveling)

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Thu Mar 30, 2017 4:39 pm

Jenninings plans to be more careful with the football this season by his comments but he also needs help. Our coaching staff needs to to provide him with a passing offence that includes a shorter passing game when defences align to take away our deep ball and double cover our best receivers. We also need to give Jennings more quick underneath options against blitzes and a screen game. In the running attack, if we gave Jennings the zone read option to utilize, he could also take advantage of defenses stacking against our inside run on second down and short.

An attack style vertical passing game challenges a defence. Its an aggressive strategy that I like overall. But we also need to add a few more more horizontal pass plays (eg: crossing patterns, rub routes, quick slants, etc) that incorporate a bit of a West Coast flavor so we can stretch defenses both vertically and horizontally. The best passing offence attacks all layers of a devertically and all areas of the field horizontally as well - the concept is to 'stretch' a defense in all areas of the field. Calgary is a team that does that. They can hurt a defence in every way - choose your poison.
Totally agree. We need to give Jennings more options when he drops back to pass. Defences can't cheat.

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Sun Apr 02, 2017 8:23 pm

TheLionKing wrote:
Jenninings plans to be more careful with the football this season by his comments but he also needs help. Our coaching staff needs to to provide him with a passing offence that includes a shorter passing game when defences align to take away our deep ball and double cover our best receivers. We also need to give Jennings more quick underneath options against blitzes and a screen game. In the running attack, if we gave Jennings the zone read option to utilize, he could also take advantage of defenses stacking against our inside run on second down and short.

An attack style vertical passing game challenges a defence. Its an aggressive strategy that I like overall. But we also need to add a few more more horizontal pass plays (eg: crossing patterns, rub routes, quick slants, etc) that incorporate a bit of a West Coast flavor so we can stretch defenses both vertically and horizontally. The best passing offence attacks all layers of a devertically and all areas of the field horizontally as well - the concept is to 'stretch' a defense in all areas of the field. Calgary is a team that does that. They can hurt a defence in every way - choose your poison.
Totally agree. We need to give Jennings more options when he drops back to pass. Defences can't cheat.
:thup: :thup: :thup: :thup:

Defenses cheat in two ways against us. Last season, they cheated by playing us press man coverage while employing two safeties and also cheating off Iannuzzi. That forced them to cover Rainey or Johnson with a linebacker but we did not exploit it well enough at all. We did use Rainey on the occasional crossing pattern, with the linebacker trailing him by five yards and we did throw a couple of tosses to Johnson downfield toward the end of the season but it was not enough.

Throwing quick swings to Rainey, against press man coverage was really dum, rather than allowing the receivers to run downfield to clear space for Rainey and then delaying Rainey out of the backfield. We also could have used Rainey deeper against the linebacker. That style of defence is also purrfect for the screen game to the tailback or fullback but we very, very rarely use the screen pass.

The second way defenses cheat is to blitz us. We did hurt defences with the deep throw against the blitz, with Jennings throwing the deep ball early but if that was taken away, we did not have a short pass attack to exploit the blitz.

We shouldn't be needing Jennings to perform magic in the pocket and then pull off an amazing run, like he did with 66 seconds left to pull out a victory against the Bombers in the WDF. While that play and others Jennings pulled off last season was exciting, the most important thing is to give him short pass options against the blitz and also give him a shorter passing game and a screen game against press man, double safety, when he needs it.

Its really exciting and fun and impressive to watch Jennings throw purrfect throws deep against double coverage or to watch Manny or Burnham go up over two defenders and come up with an amazing catch. But you can't always rely on those types of plays and the WDF against Calgary more than proved that.

Give Jennings all the tools in an offence to work with and we become very, very difficult to stop. Relying on Jennings natural talent as a passer, his poise in the pocket, and his ability to escape and the athleticism and courage of our go to receivers is something we do too much of. Instead we should have an offensive system that enables us to stretch the field in every way and then having the natural talents of our offensive skill players enhance that offensive system.
"When I went to Catholic high school in Philadelphia, we just had one coach for football and basketball. He took all of us who turned out and had us run through a forest. The ones who ran into the trees were on the football team". (George Raveling)

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