The two New England Patriots players that are tabbed for breakout 2013 season the most are defensive end Chandler Jones and running back Shane Vereen, and it is Jones who has the biggest chance to burst out and be a true difference-maker on defense for the Patriots. The Pats need to have a high-impact pass rusher, and Jones has the potential to be that guy with his length, athleticism, and strength. We shouldn’t heap too many lofty expectations on Jones, but it is great that Patriots fans are well aware of Jones’s upside. He has the ability to be the kind of impact player on defense that the Patriots haven’t really had in some time, especially when it comes to going after the passer. What gets lost with Jones, though, is the fact that he is a great two-way defensive end, and I was actually more impressed with his run defense as a rookie than I was with his pass rushing.
Jones’s run defense was a pleasant surprise, and the fact that his pass rushing wasn’t as good makes me believe that his world of potential will soon be tapped into. Last season, an ankle injury hurt Jones down the stretch, and he wasn’t nearly as consistent of a source of pressure as he was at the beginning of the year. Rob Ninkovich had the sacks, but Jones was the one who truly impressed me as a pass rusher, because the most important thing is putting consistent pressure on the quarterback. In my eyes, Jones was the only player to achieve that.
Ninkovich recently fawned over Jones’s length and said he expects big things out of Chandler Jones in 2013, via MassLive.com, “He’s definitely going to be a guy who is going to have a great year. He’s had that first year of experience to get the rookie jitters off, so he can just go out here and play football.”
It looks like Ninko is convinced that big things are ahead for Jones next season, and the added experience is definitely going to help Jones. Looking at some quotes in that piece provided by Bill Belichick, it also looks like the main benefit of that experience is that Jones will learn more about how to use his athleticism and excellent frame to be that kind of elite pass rusher that this team needs. I’m not a big fan of the guys behind Jones on the depth chart, but the main thing is that having an elite pass rusher is just a huge asset for a defense and would greatly help the Patriots defensive backs.