It’s hard for all defensive linemen to get the recognition that they deserve. Aaron Donald and J.J. Watt consistently and rightfully get put into the conversation as the top defensive linemen in the NFL, but don’t look now; Chris Jones is one of the most dominant interior defensive linemen in football.
Right now, Jones has 37 tackles, 15 tackles for loss and 14 sacks. He’s generating pressure on almost every single snap and is disrupting offensive gamelans on a weekly basis.
For those that haven’t been paying attention, they’re just noticing Jones because of what he did against the Los Angeles Chargers on Thursday night. Against the Chargers, Jones had three tackles and 2.5 sacks. He was disrupting the backfield and generating constant pressure on Philip Rivers. This has been happening all season long from Chris Jones. As far as I’m concerned, Jones has always been in the Defensive Player of the Year (DPOY) conversation, but let’s take a deeper look at what makes him so effective:
First Career Pick-Six
During Week 5, Chris Jones had some moments against the Jacksonville Jaguars. These moments include a sack against Blake Bortles, but there was no bigger moment than his first career pick-six.
Aligned as a one-technique, Jones explodes out of his stance with good burst and relatively good pad level. In the process, he begins to split a double team from the right guard and the center. As the offensive linemen let up and start to release upfield, Jones is reading the backfield and realizes the screen pass is coming. He reads Blake Bortles’s eyes, finds the football and takes it to the house. Even though the Chiefs won this game 30-14, Jones really helped protect the lead and put the game out of reach.
Great First Step Leads to Being Untouched
As an offensive lineman, if you’re not going to put a hand on Chris Jones, then you deserve whatever result happens. Negative results tend to happen, as is the case here, after a great first step from Jones leads to him going untouched to the backfield.
On the play above, Jones is aligned as a three-technique. He slants hard inside, and with a great first step and solid hip flexibility, he has the ability to get lateral but then burst upfield. This puts him in position to tackle the running back (James Conner, #30) behind the line of scrimmage (LOS), a tackle for loss. Consistent effort and solid burst off the LOS is required for defensive linemen to be dominant, and Jones meets that requirement.
Swim Move/Club-Over Wins Every Time
From double swiping hands of the offensive lineman out of the way or straight bull rushing his way to the quarterback, Jones has a good blend of moves to make plays. The swim move/club-over is one pass rush move that he constantly wins with, and it’s probably my favorite. This season, there’s been at least three instances in which Jones uses this move and it results in a sack or tackle for loss.
Against the Cleveland Browns, Jones aligns in the B-gap as a three-technique. In this situation, he’s matched one-on-one, and when that happens, he’s goint to win almost every time. Add the fact that his hand usage is consistent and he has the power to bully offensive linemen, and he becomes incredibly dangerous.
Once he explodes out of his stance, he crosses the face of the left guard and then executes the swim move on him. When he gets to the heels of the offensive lineman, he reads the backfield and finds the ball carrier. In the process, he starts to break down and brings the running back (Nick Chubb) down on a tackle for loss.
Plenty of people will say that the Los Angeles Rams have the best offensive line in football. Chris Jones had six tackles, three tackles for loss and two sacks against them. He absolutely dominated this game, and I would say that this was easily his best game of the season. With so many plays to choose from, I went with my favorite.
Jones is aligned in the A-gap as a one-technique on the left guard. Once the ball is snapped, he plays low with great pad level, and once the guard shoots his hands, Jones swims over him and gets to the heels of the offensive lineman. He finds Todd Gurley with the football and drags him down for a tackle for loss.
Lastly, Jones gets a tackle for loss against the Oakland Raiders by utilizing the swim move, yet again. Back in the B-gap and aligned as the three-technique, Jones finds himself in the backfield. The swim move is simple: fire out low, club the back of the offensive lineman, and bring one arm up and over in a swimming stroke motion. It’s always important to keep your feet moving as a defensive lineman after performing any type of pass rush move, and Chris Jones always keeps his feet moving.
Counter Inside and Bullrush
This play looks identical to what Jones did against the Chargers on Thursday night. In the game against the Chargers, Jones was aligned on Dan Feeney (LG), who went looking for work way too early. In the process, Feeney put Dee Ford in the dirt, but the center didn’t help fast enough, and this led to a bullrush from Jones that resulted in some pressure on Philip Rivers.
In this case, Jones does the exact same thing, but the left guard (James Hurst, #74) knows he has help from the center. Once Hurst knows the center is there to help, he moves his attention to his outside and makes sure there’s no bleed-through from the edge rusher. Jones just straight powers through the center (Matt Skura, #68) and brings Lamar Jackson down for the sack.
Don't sleep on Chris Jones as an interior pass-rusher. pic.twitter.com/8KZcgdvlY1
— PFF (@PFF) July 23, 2018
Going into this season, Chris Jones was ranked as the fourth-best interior pass rusher in the AFC. Before the Thursday Night game, Jones had a grade of 89.7 from PFF. The former second-round pick from the 2016 NFL Draft has generated 22.5 career sacks and almost 100 career tackles in his young career.
The third-year pro has been dominating on a weekly basis for the Kansas City Chiefs and has a sack in ten consecutive games. With another dominant performance in Week 15, there’s only one thing left to do, and that’s to mention Chris Jones when we’re talking about top interior defensive linemen in the NFL.
With every other team still having to play in Week 15, Chris Jones is currently second in the NFL with 14 sacks, trailing only Aaron Donald, who has 16.5. These rankings will obviously change after this week, but there’s no reason not to put Chris Jones in the Defensive Player of the Year conversation; he’s already there.