By: Steve Balestrieri
For the Patriots to return to a Super Bowl, it is the defense that is going to need to make a big jump in terms of production. And when speaking of a ‘big jump’ for the Patriots defense, it begins with second year defensive end Chandler Jones, our spotlight player in this week’s “Player to Watch” for the Bills game.
Jones, the Patriots selection with the 21st pick in the 2012 NFL Draft started last season quickly, tallying up six sacks in the first eight games and seemed to be on the fast track for the Defensive Rookie of the Year. But ankle injuries slowed and limited him down the stretch and he wasn’t the factor that he or the team wanted him to be in the playoffs.
Much is expected from Chandler Jones in 2013 for the Patriots defense. (FILE:USPresswire)
Now he’s entering into his second season, and has Bill Belichick has always said, the biggest jump in a player’s development is generally between the first and second year. Jones worked out with his brother, an MMA fighter in the off-season and added an extra 10-15 lbs of muscle on his long frame, adding extra strength without sacrificing his burst off the edge.
Jones as well as fellow second year player Dont’a Hightower is being counted upon to do some big things on the Patriots defense this season and he’s ready for the challenge. Jones using his added bulk as well as some better hand techniques as a result of his martial arts training has been able to consistently bring pressure on the quarterback through the preseason, something that was missing from the New England defense the past few years.
“I’ve been trying to eat a little bit better and trying to focus on myself, trying to get my upper-body strength, focus on certain weaknesses of my game, becoming an all-around player to become a better teammate,” Jones said during training camp.
“Sacks are hard to come by,” Jones added. “You can’t just get a sack every game. You have to work for it. You have to set it up.”
His development has been noticeable, to those in attendance every day, to the coaches and to his teammates. Teammate Rob Ninkovich said, “He’s definitely going to be a guy that is going to have a great year. He’s had the first year of experience to kind of get the rookie jitters off so he can just go out here and play football.”
Now playing next to the massive and talented Tommy Kelly on the right side of the Patriots defense, these two players will have plenty of opportunity to bring pressure on the opposing quarterbacks.
And this week, they’ll want to get off to a good start. The Buffalo Bills have two talented running backs in C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson, and Jones will be looked to set the edge in the running game, but the real test will be when he goes after rookie quarterback EJ Manuel.
The Patriots will be looking to confuse the rookie quarterback with different looks in the defense, having him take that extra second to make a read and perhaps force a mistake. Jones coming off the edge will be going against LT Cordy Glenn. This will be a good first test this season not only for Jones but for the Patriots defense.
Jones and the New England defense will be wanting to make a good opening statement this week and laying the foundation for a successful season. If the preseason was any indication, they’re ready for the challenge.
And for the Patriots to get where they want to be in February, it starts on Sunday in Buffalo. And the defense will have to be better, especially against the pass. Nothing helps out a secondary more than good, consistent quarterback pressure. So the spotlight this week is on Chandler Jones.