Let's start off with a simple disclaimer, so no one feels the need to say it in the comments...
Preseason action is not necessarily an indicator of what is to come during the regular season
There, now that we've covered that, I'm sure absolutely no one make a comment saying, "It's just preseason, wake me up when the games matter" or something to that effect (yeah, right). It was important to get that out of the way because we have more important things to talk about. Like Chris Jones.
I see you Chris Jones. (95) pic.twitter.com/2VeUVFUtRt— Seth Keysor (@RealMNchiefsfan) August 13, 2016
That was the first snap Chris Jones has ever taken as a professional football player (later note- except it wasn't. Pull it together, Seth!). It wasn't the worst.
Now, I have no idea what the right guard's blocking assignment was. I have no idea what the coach told him to do. But it seems really, really unlikely that he was told, "All right, we want you to get grabbed by the shoulders and thrown aside like that one buddy we all had in college who weighed 125 pounds soaking wet but was always trying to break up fights." It just seems unlikely.
The poor guy. After being tossed aside - Jones has ridiculously long and ridiculously powerful arms, and is explosive enough to sprint right through the opening created by the right guard's vacation of his place on the line - he basically kinda grabs Jones and holds on for dear life to try and slow him down. Effective? Sort of. Legal? Not even a little. But hey, what's the harm in a little no-call on a hold? It's not like that could cost a team a game and... oh, nevermind. Let's move on.
It was no secret after the draft that Chris Jones was considered a potential steal. He is an absolute monster of a human being. Seeing him on the field I could not believe his size. When an AP user Brsrkr said that he believed (based on camp observations) that Jones could legitimately put on another 20 pounds (he weighed in at 310 at the combine) without losing a step, I didn't quite believe it. Seeing him now, I believe it.
Of course, there are a lot of physical specimens in the league, as well as guys who are supposed to come in and dominate the world. That changes when you are finally lined up against NFL caliber competition (even second and third stringers) who are better than 90 percent of the players you have ever faced.
And therein lies the value of preseason. We can get a glimpse of whether players can hang with the big boys and, even more importantly, if they stand out against the second and third string competition. If you are hoping a player can make an impact during the season, he SHOULD be noticeably superior to the opposition during preseason action (if he's not playing against starters).
So, how did Jones fare in his first NFL action, other than that first snap? All we can do is track every snap and chart the results. To see the methodology I use when "charting" defensive linemen, click here and scroll (not a trick, that's an article where I explain how I do these reviews). Take a moment and go through that, then let's get into the numbers.
Runs affected: 2
Functional double teams: 2
Win %: 40
Loss %: 20
Now, it's tough for me to put these numbers in exact context for you, but let me put it this way ... when I grade offensive linemen, I worry if they have a loss percentage of higher than 10 percent. So if an offensive lineman is losing one-on-one battles 10 percent of the time, that means his defender is winning 10 percent of the time (MATH!!!!!!!!!!!).
In other words, a defender getting an outright win on 10 percent of the snaps is enough to make me pay attention. Jones won four times that amount during his first action as a pro. That's ... insane.
It's difficult to win as a defender. You need to quickly overpower an offensive lineman who knows the play call, has support from other blockers, and doesn't have to take risks the majority of the time (because it's the defender's job to make something happen. Neutral is usually in favor of the offense). Just think of the best pass rushers in the NFL. Even the elite of the elite are successful on less than 10 percent of their rushes. That's the nature of the business.
In other words, winning on 40 percent of your snaps is just... freakish. Which is what you think of when you see Chris Jones play.
Here's a better gif of Chris Jones effortlessly manhandling a professional offensive lineman. pic.twitter.com/sNNgibRsUa— Seth Keysor (@RealMNchiefsfan) August 17, 2016
When I watched Jones play in college, I noted that he threw aside offensive linemen multiple snaps every game. The prevailing wisdom is that when a player is that physically dominant in college, he's going to probably take a step backward as a pro, because everyone is just too strong, fast, and technically savvy to just be manhandled.
That wisdom, at least based on the very limited snaps we have seen (and keep in mind this is against second and third string players), does not apply to Jones. He is every bit the brute in the pros that he was in college.
His play was actually even more impressive than the numbers suggest at first glance, as two of his neutral plays were plays where he forced a functional double team that allowed another defender to get a shot at making a play. And while I have yet to create a good way to show the difference between a terrible loss and a not-so-terrible one, rest assured that none of Jones's losses were all that bad. On the flip side of things, his wins were ridiculous. Honestly, it was one remarkable play after another where Jones demonstrated that he is just on another level when it comes to strength.
This is Jones's second snap. Seriously, the man is S-T-R-O-N-G. Needs to finish more aggressively though. pic.twitter.com/Fqs83wFy3h— Seth Keysor (@RealMNchiefsfan) August 16, 2016
Now, to quickly address the play above, many of you are going to want to harp on Jones for not making the tackle there (especially considering the concerns about his motor). That said, I'd caution you on that particular play. Watch No. 99 (Rakeem Nunez-Roches, who had a solid game himself, really) and his offensive lineman. Watch where they end up in relation to Jones's feet. What you've got there is a young player who didn't know how to handle the scrum landing at his feet. That will come with time. Chiefs defensive line coach Britt Reid talked this week about Jones's run game needing some work.
But the big takeaway with Jones is that he's a massive, outrageously strong player who is already pretty adept at using his reach and powerful upper body to create problems. I see five year veterans who don't hand fight as well as Jones does already. He also possesses more burst than you'd expect for a lineman his size.
And it wasn't just pass rushing downs where he made an impact.
Chris Jones, Justin March, and Dezman Moses do not care about your 4th down conversion attempt. pic.twitter.com/BdzhLg4D5h— Seth Keysor (@RealMNchiefsfan) August 14, 2016
Jones was a part of both a fourth and one stuff and a third and two stuff. Both times, he did what you see here... penetrate his gap quickly and cause chaos in the backfield, forcing the runner to hesitate and try to change directions. On this play, because March and Moses (guys who flashed in their own right) cleaned up so quickly it meant the play was dead in the water.
Jones has the athleticism and strength to get into the backfield immediately seemingly at will, at least against the lesser competition he was facing Saturday. He also demonstrated on several snaps that he is able to hold up against double teams without being washed out of the play. When he wasn't penetrating, he seemed to hold his own against the run by pressing offensive linemen off him and then flowing to the ball.
Where Jones needs work, in my opinion, is play recognition. Now, he did sniff out and kill a RB screen (which was just a wonderfully savvy move), but I thought I detected some hesitation in his movement at times after beating offensive linemen. He's still at the point where it takes him a second to locate the ball. The faster that process gets, the more quickly he'll blow up whatever poor soul is trying to make a play for the offense.
Another thing I noticed about Jones on the few occasions he didn't get significant penetration into the backfield is that he knows to stop rushing and start swatting. At 6'6 and with nine foot arms (give or take), Jones is going to have a lot of chances to bat down passes if he times it right. That's a skill that needs to be honed, but the fact that he's recognizing the need to do so if he's not close enough to the QB to apply pressure is a great sign.
I had more than a few people ask me to observe if Jones took plays off or gave halfway effort at times, as was the knock on him in college. I'm happy to report that while I saw some jogging when the play was away from him, I didn't see anything from Jones out of the ordinary from any other defensive lineman I watched. Jones did get some breathers as they rotated the defensive line, but he was in there quite a bit and I didn't notice his effectiveness drop as drives were extended. If he has conditioning or effort issues, they didn't present themselves in this particular game.
Overall, Jones's debut was as impressive as I could have hoped for. If I have it my way the Chiefs will rotate him in with the first string in the next game so we can see how he looks against starting-caliber NFL competition. Jones DID have two snaps against Seattle's starters, but one was an extremely quick throw and the other was a read option play that went away from him, so nothing could really be gleaned from those plays.
The first step with a young player, for me, is seeing if he stands out among non-starters. Jones passed that test with flying colors. A much more daunting challenge awaits him now, as the next step is standing out with the big boys. We'll see how that goes. It's an awful lot to expect much of a rookie defensive lineman. But Saturday was a good start.