Off-Season Film Session 2: Chris Jones

Note to the reader: This is the second review in what will be a series of off-season film reviews featuring some of the best plays of members of the Chiefs Super Bowl 54 winning team. It’s a long offseason so I hope to cover most of the major contributors for the team. There will be a small break in the series of reviews around draft time as well as free agency to highlight new additions to the team. Leave comments in the articles or on clips I post on Twitter about which players you would like to see, the more comments for a player the more likely it will be they are featured quicker.

Time for the second installment of the offseason film session. It’s time to take a look at the work that Chris Jones put together in the 2019 NFL season. After a monster 2018 campaign, Jones stepped up huge again and was the most important defensive player for the Chiefs this season. He fought through injuries and constant double teams all season long. He finished the season with nine sacks, 36 total tackles, four batted passes, and one forced fumble. While these numbers were impressive for an interior DL and enough to earn a Pro-Bowl nod, his game went far beyond the box score. His impact was felt on nearly every snap for the Chiefs this year.

In 2018 the Chiefs defense could not stop the run at all, and it cost them a trip to the Super Bowl. With the acquisition of Steve Spagnuolo as the new DC, the team would have a newfound sense of urgency when it came to stopping the run. In past seasons some would often criticize Jones’ ability to play the run in Bob Sutton’s 3-4 defense. While in some instances he did seem to be playing the pass more often, being a DT in a 3-4 system is more about taking on double teams and freeing things up for other players.

In the new 4-3 front, Jones can play a three-technique away from the offense’s strong side of the ball. Jones found a home here and excelled as the season progressed. Against the Oakland Raiders, Jones is the three-technique in the 4-3 under the front. The Raiders are attempting to run power the opposite way. The center is supposed to block back on Jones but when Darron Lee steps into the A gap his responsibility changes and he has to take Lee. This means that LT Kolton Miller has to block down on Jones. As the ball is snapped Jones gets a phenomenal jump off the LOS, blowing past Miller and tackling Josh Jacobs for no gain. His freak athleticism was on full display here.

Later in the game against Oakland, Jones would record his first sack of the season. Jones uses a move that he really started to master this season with his hand swat and the combinations that he was able to use off of it. As the RG gets into his set and attempts to punch Jones, he leans a little too far forward and Jones swats the hands away and burns through the B gap to get the sack on Derek Carr. Jones has really evolved his hands, early in his career it just seemed like he was playing with natural talent, now in year four he is a technician in the trenches.

Jones has the lateral quickness and burst off the line to beat nearly any Interior OL in the NFL. Playing very tight on the LG, he works his way back inside through the A gap after the guard oversets him to the outside. The Lions had slide protection right, meaning Jones had a one on one. For being such a big guy, Jones has the tremendous body control of a much smaller player. Being able to get through the gap under control and make the sack at his height and weight is impressive.

While Jones can play the finesse rush game all day and beat the OL with his superior athleticism, in the NFL to play D-Line you need to have a solid Bull Rush. Jones gets beat initially trying to go back inside and the LG looks to be in a good position. When the clip goes into slow motion notice the guard’s whole body start to move backward starting with his head and upper half. Jones put his cleats in the dirt, strikes his arms into the guard’s chest, and proceeds to walk him directly back into Kirk Cousins for a sack. All Jones had to do was extend his arms and the guard couldn’t reach back to him to fight the pressure.

With 34.5 inch long arms, Jones can out length almost any blocker. It is his greatest advantage as a player for a very simple reason: if you can reach out and touch someone and they can’t reach out and touch you then it’s going to be hard for the other person to block you. Long arms, quick feet, explosive hands, and smooth athleticism is a winning combo for D-linemen.

Jones shows off some really good open-field ability here. As Dalvin Cook takes the handoff he tries to follow the double team on the left side that was working on Jones. Cook tries to cut but Jones sheds the block and makes him redirect. As Cook redirects, Jones makes a really impressive play in space. Had Cook been able to shake free it could have been a bigger gain.

Tennesee has slide protection toward Jones on this play. One of his most impressive efforts of the season as he split the slide protection to get the sack. He swats away the LG’s hands and get’s into the A gap as the C contacts him. The C was too slow and Jones runs upfield with a little rip move to free himself up. As Ryan Tannehill scrambles, Jones extends those long arms once again and knocks the ball loose. It was recovered by KC and Jones sent a message. No matter how much teams do to combat his style of play, he will find a way to get to the QB.

Jones was one yard shy on this play of recording a sack. Going against Gabe Jackson, a very good pass protector, he gets into a bit of a stalemate but manages to win late with a swim move as Carr starts to scramble. Jones is able to win the play but Carr had just passed the LOS so no sack was awarded. This was the difference between a single and double digit sack season. Had Jones played a full season he would have ended the season with double digit sacks but this play just goes to show how hard it is to rush the passer in the NFL. His impact on the play was still enormous.

Earlier I mentioned that Jones started to have success as the backside defender in the 4-3 under the front. Early in this season and when Jones was injured teams were getting big rips off of zone runs, but not on the play side. The front side defenders were doing a good job of creating stalemates and not allowing holes to open. Where the Chiefs were getting killed was when the backs would cutback, as most of the time there were giant holes allowing the runners to go for ten plus yards. When Jones was back and healthy he was the final key in the defense becoming good at stopping the run.

As the backside three-technique, he beats a reach block from Trent Brown. As Jacobs starts to go into his cut he is met by Jones who holds him to around only three yards. While this play won’t show up in the stat book as remarkable, this is what it takes to win in the NFL. The Chiefs had a problem and Steve Spagnuolo trusted his most disruptive player to fix it.

Again we can see Jones playing well on the backside of zone plays to take away the cutback lanes. The New England RT wants to cut Jones, but he is far too athletic for the roll cut. There is not much room on the front side so James White goes to cut back and is met by Jones for only a small gain. This was so big down the stretch run of the season and into the playoffs for the Chiefs. Two of the three teams they played in the playoffs relied heavily on the run game and cutbacks off of zone runs. This made it just that much harder and forced teams into playing the way the Chiefs wanted them to play. The narrative that teams could run all over KC had been shattered and Chris Jones was leading the way in shattering it.

Even with his ability to stop the run, the biggest strength of Chris Jones was his ability to rush the passer. Here he is lined up as a one technique and is able to rip past the center, splitting him and the guard, and sack Tom Brady.

This play is a good example of showing how the offense can scheme their way around a player and it still doesn’t matter. Jones has three Chicago OL touch him at some point in this play. The guard oversets him which gives Jones a path to the inside. The C was headed that way on his slide protection and holds up Jones as the LT comes down and gives a quick helping hand to keep Jones down. The corner blitz causes Mitch Trubisky to scramble and avoid one tackle, but somehow Jones splits through the loose triple team and turns on the jets to tackle a very mobile QB. This was his best play of the season because while his technique and physical attributes are impressive, his motor and passion for the game were unmatched by any opponent this year. This was nothing more than an effort play.

Late vs the L.A. Chargers at home with playoff seeding on the line and a lead, Jones was fired up. He comes tearing off the ball before most of the OL are even out of their stance. He hits on a filthy swim move over the center and engulfs Phillip Rivers for a huge sack to ignite the crowd.

Chris Jones is a fantastic talent and one of the most underrated players in the NFL. For three seasons he has played like an All-Pro, earning the nod last year, and a trip to the Pro-Bowl this year, which he would not attend due to practicing for another game in Florida the next week. While his career has been next to the elite so far there are still many questions as to whether Stone Cold will be back in KC. There are very good arguments on both sides of the issue, both make good points and there are options to resign him, as well as a tag and trade scenario. That’s for someone else to decide, not myself.

The impact that Jones made was felt by everyone on the defensive side of the ball. The attention teams paid Jones allowed the emergence of Derrick Nadi and Mike Pennel as run stuffers. It allowed Frank Clark to get into several one on one rush situations. In my Super Bowl review over the defense, I highlighted about five or six plays Jones made in which he opened up the play for everyone else.

I wanted to focus on the outstanding play of Jones in this Super Bowl winning season. Guys like Jones don’t’ come along every day. To find such a combination of size, speed, athleticism, and attitude are rare. It was easy to see how when in the right aggressive defense and with good enough coaching, Jones could blossom into a complete player. Jones will be 26 by the time next season rolls around, entering the prime of his career fresh off a Super Bowl win. No matter where he ends up he will continue to be one of the top two or three defensive linemen in the world, if not the best.