Chiefs defensive lineman Chris Jones puts on a show on and off the field

Chris Jones is an entertainer. When he’s not cracking heads on the gridiron, he’s cracking jokes on the sidelines.

Jones, a 6-6, 308-pound defensive lineman, always seems have a smile on his face.

“As long as I’m waking up, I’m happy,” he said. “You can find some reason to be happy. It’s about loving life, loving what you do and embracing all of it.”

As a rookie last year, he gave opponents plenty of reasons not to be happy.

With 28 tackles, two sacks and four tackles for loss, Chris Jones ranked among the best of the 2016 NFL draft class and earned All-Rookie honors from the Pro Football Writers of America.

Some writers felt the Chiefs got a steal in the draft after trading down and giving up their first-round pick. A solid final year at Mississippi State propelled Jones into potential first-round status, but the Chiefs were pleased when he was still available for their first pick, 37th overall.

“He’s a big man,” defensive coordinator Bob Sutton said. “He has really good quickness. He’s got a natural ability to do a couple of things. He can get through small areas for a big man, which is impressive. And he’s got a sense of when to get a hand up when a quarterback’s about ready to throw, as he’s rushing, which is a gift. With that wing-span that can be a really effective thing for him and for us on defense.”

Jones recorded four pass defenses in his eleven starts, but the most impressive was the pass rush as he forced 32 quarterback hurries.

“I definitely think I have that skill set to be a pass rusher,” Jones said. “There are a few things I’ve got to work on. My hand placement and a bunch of smaller things, staying low on tackles, leverage. There’s a few things I’ve got to work on, but I think I can be dominant.”

Said defensive line coach Britt Reid, “He’s showed some flashes of pass rush ability and we know he can do that. He’s doing a great job; he’s working hard. He’s got a great attitude. He’s positive every day and he’s willing to work. That’s really the biggest thing; he’s willing to work. He’s not afraid to put in the effort and time.”

Chris Jones learned a lot in his first season, especially as he shadowed former Chiefs defensive line standout Dontari Poe, even to the extent of following the same diet.

“Cut up half a banana, put it in the oatmeal,” Jones said. “I didn’t like it, but I still ate it because Poe ate it.”

With Poe’s departure to Atlanta via free agency, the opportunity for Jones to settle into a regular role increases, even if he has to fit into different spots on the line as he did for much of 2016.

“Nothing really changes,” he said. “I did that a lot my first year. I expect to do similar things this year, so it just gives us more versatility. As long as I’m rushing the passer, I feel comfortable anywhere. I enjoy moving around. You get to go on different opponents. They have to prepare different for you.”

Another way Jones hopes to fill Poe’s role is as an offensive player. Remember Poe became the heaviest player to score a NFL touchdown last November against the San Diego Chargers when he plunged over from a yard out. Forget Patrick Mahomes, Jones visualizes himself as the Chiefs quarterback of the future. The Chiefs need a better running attack, did Jones’ number.

“Cam Newton, Dak Prescott, Tim Tebow…I said I was going to be that,” he deadpanned. “It’s just a matter of time. You’ve got to wait. You can’t rush to greatness. I’m ready to take the snaps. I told coach Reid when the time comes I’m here getting snaps at quarterback.

“I can play tight end, receiver. I’m really a jack of all trades, honestly. Not to toot my own horn, but honestly, I am. But, I prefer quarterback. You know, quarterbacks get all the shine. I’ve got to get the shine on the goal line, man. I’ve got to get the shine. When my number gets pulled on the goal line, I’m going to take it in.”

Whether he gets to shine on offense of not, Jones is earning respect as a pass rusher.

“We’ve never had such a dominant player at the 3 technique,” said Tamba Hali. “And guys on the other side of the ball know it.”

Chris Jones was slowed when he had arthroscopic knee surgery July 12. He injured himself in a “freak accident” while running as he put himself through self-directed off-season training.

He returned to full workouts mid-August and played for the first time against the Seattle Seahawks in the third pre-season game.

“I was telling Britt it felt great to be back out with my brothers,” Jones said. “I got tired of being over there in the tent just watching, like a kid inside just watching, and you can’t play with the older kids. It was good to get back out there. It’s very tough because I sit in meetings with those guys. I want to interact with them. Those are my brothers. I’ll be with them more than with my family. That bond that we all have. I like to be out here playing football, what I love to do.”

Chris Jones is expected to be fully ready for the Chiefs opener at the defending champion New England Patriots.

“I feel great,” he said. “Last year at this time

I was probably 310 or 313. This year I’m like 305, 300. So, I feel good where my weight is at right now. It’s all about progression. I’m out here punching the clock. I’m trying to get better in some areas, even if it’s just running. I’m trying to get better out here every day.”

The opportunity to see regular playing time last year has given Jones a better understand of how to succeed.

“I feel like the game has slowed down a lot for me and I understand it better,” he said. “Throughout my rookie year, playing in more games, getting more snaps, the game just kind of slows down for you.”

Chris Jones believes in his young defensive teammates.

“It’s going to be a lot of excitement,” he said. “I love it. Those guys give me energy. That’s the energy we need, right there. We’ve got T.K. (Tanoh Kpassagnon), the freak. That guy is awesome. He can play linebacker and defensive line.

I guess they just went and got a more athletic Chris Jones. He’s a freak. He’s going to be a good guy for this defense. He’s a multi-tasker.

“We’ve got Ricky (Ali’ifua) in the back. We’ve got Roy (Miller). Man, have you all seen him stuff up those guys on the run? He’s something to handle. Benny Logan; he’s my guy. He and (Allen) Bailey are like the old (guys) of the group. Those guys get us going.”

Jones knows what he needs to do.

“Give everything I’ve got,” he said. “That’s every play, every down, give everything I’ve got. Whatever I can do to make this team better, that’s what I’ve got to do. I just want to see my limitations. The sky’s the limit for me. I just want to give it all I’ve got, for my teammates, for myself and for the coaching staff.”

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Article by Marc Bowman

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