Chris Jones led the defensive surge for Kansas City against the Los Angeles Chargers. After struggling in the first half he was able to break free after halftime and help the team come up with key stops on third down.
In football, there are different types of players. You have your regular guys which are referred to as JAGs (Just another guy), your dudes (above average players), game changers (playmakers), and game wreckers (self-explanatory). The Kansas City Chiefs are fortunate enough to have a player that falls into the last category, and last week when they needed someone to wreck the game Chris Jones answered the call.
After the Chiefs’ devastating AFCCG loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, no player outside of Patrick Mahomes was criticized more than Chris Jones, and for very good reason. Not once but twice had Jones let Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow escape the pocket on what looked to be sure-fire sacks that would have gotten the Chiefs off the field on third down. Instead, they turned into a play and drive-extending moments that would lead to Bengals points, ultimately playing a massive factor in the eventual overtime loss.
Jones had no sacks in the game, and astonishingly enough no playoff sacks through his entire career. Fans and the media alike chastised Jones all offseason, with most referencing the weight of his contract and lack of crunch time production as the main reasons they were upset with his play. While both of those are valid reasons to be upset, what the casual football fan won’t see or doesn’t pay attention to is how teams have to scheme to stop Jones week in and week out and what impact this has on the rest of the team. They don’t see the constant double teams that Jones endures, or how teams flat out will work way into their scheme to limit what he can do.
Through two games this season Jones is determined to make everyone notice what he is capable of, and his performance in primetime indicated that.
In the week one dismantling of the Arizona Cardinals we saw Jones come away with a batted pass, and by being an active pass rusher here he gets another. Rookie guard Zion Johnson was a top-five offensive lineman in the NFL Draft this spring, and he looks to have tremendous upside as a player. He starts the playoff about as well as a guard can against Jones, wins the leverage battle, and gets hands-on first, locking his feet into the ground to begin his pop and lock. This is where Jones gets interesting, he realizes that a smaller quicker guard like Johnson can counter his speed, so he uses his superior length and size to break the hand fight, start to bull Johnson back, and then gets his hands in the passing lane to knock down the ball.
Late in the game, the Chargers suffered some injuries on their offensive line, putting them into the danger zone. Late in the highly contested game, Jones broke free on third down and ignited the Arrowhead crowd. He used his classic hand swipe move, returning to the A gap having lined up as a three-technique. Waiting all night to have a chance to just have a one-on-one matchup he took advantage of the moment.
With the Chargers trying to regain momentum late in the game a massive third and short play came up. Deciding to go right at Jones with a zone run to Ekeler would prove to be another mistake for the Chargers. The left guard tries to reach block Jones one on one here, but the length and quickness of Jones help him penetrate the backfield, taking away the B gap and pressing the guard into the A gap. Ekeler decides to cut back, but it is all for not. Jones swings himself off the block and creates a huge tackle for loss.
Finishing the game with two sacks, three tackles, seven pressures, and a pass deflection Jones showed once again that he is on a mission in 2022. In a summer press conference, Jones said point blank that his not finishing plays late against the Bengals was a key reason the Chiefs lost out on another chance at the Super Bowl. Early on this season, it appears that the hunger and fire are there, and is spreading to the rest of the defense as a whole.
Jones will have another chance to display his skills against one of the best guards in football, Quentin Nelson, this week as the Chiefs travel to Indianapolis. There won’t be any headlines, but it will be a marquee matchup between two of the best in the league.