Chandler Jones, Patriots’ Goal Moving Forward
In the past few years, every time you looked at the Patriot’s defense the obvious weaknesses were their secondary and edge rushers. Fans groaned about the gaping holes and chunks of yardage gained by opposing teams through the air, and year in, year out, no big-name signings came to the defensive backfield.
This season is a bit different, as Darrelle Revis (one of the top corners in the NFL) and Brandon Browner, a member of the rock-solid Seattle Seahawks defense, look to bolster a group that could contend for the best in the league.
As for the defensive line, rookie Dominique Easley can rush the quarterback effectively at times, but the Pats didn’t go out an acquire a player that fans can assume will make an immediate impact. Overall, the pass rush from last year is largely unchanged, and with AFC East rivals, namely the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins, maintaining excellent big men, one may wonder how much stock the Patriots hold in Chandler Jones.
And it could be unfair to say that Jones won’t lead the Patriots’ pass rush by himself. Last season, he played a full 16 games and tallied 11.5 sacks, while the year before, his rookie campaign, Jones notched six sacks in thirteen games started. As a young prospect, the Syracuse alumn has revealed excellent intangibles in the speed and strength category, so no signs point to him slowing down for the rest of his NFL career.
“I think he does some things really well,” former Patriot Willie McGinest said, according to The Boston Herald. “There are some things because of his length, his arms, his size that he can also do that can take him to the next level. I think this is the year that we’ll see if he is going to be a dominant guy, not just a pass rusher but a defensive end. He’s comfortable now. He understands what he’s doing. He’s been through it now. He’s had a chance to develop and get stronger.”
McGinest brings up a great point regarding Jones development, as the 6-foot-5 defensive end has shown an ability to disrupt the quarterback, but he need to become a complete player—consistently disrupting run plays in the backfield, containing outside runs, and generally putting forth an intelligent, dynamic style on the edge.
Everyone wants to see Jones rack up even greater sack numbers, and granted, those stats are good indication of performance. When it comes to building a well-rounded defense, though, versatility at specific positions is key. As much as the Patriots need a man who’s singularly good at getting after the quarterback, that’s not all you want out of a possible franchise player in Jones.
This coming regular season will display where the 24-year-old stands in his quest for completeness. Look out for Jones on the new-look Patriots defense.