When the Kansas City Chiefs drafted Chris Jones out of Mississippi State back in 2016, they did so knowing that Jones, then 21, would have time to come into his own under the likes of mentors Dontari Poe, Jaye Howard and Allen Bailey.
Then football happened, as it does. Bailey landed on the injured reserve list in October of that year and suddenly Jones was starting as a rookie.
Over the past two seasons, Chiefs fans have gotten to know him for his fun-loving antics off the field—you’d be hard-pressed to find a non-quarterback in the league who wants to play quarterback as bad as Jones—as well as the passion he shows on it, like when he became so excited pumping up the Arrowhead Stadium playoff crowd he threw up.
Now a 23-year-old and a third-year veteran, Jones is ready for a new role.
“Every year, you work on things you can work on—[I‘m] trying to progress as a leader,“ he said Wednesday after the Chiefs‘ second mandatory minicamp practice. “You try to lead as an example for the younger guys.”
Jones believes those “younger guys“ the Chiefs have loaded up with on the defensive side of the football are “studs.”
“We got Breeland (Speaks), from the SEC, our arch-rival (Ole Miss),” Jones said, before continuing. “We got (Derrick) Nnadi, the kid’s a stud—[he’s] got to learn a little of the game. But other than that, we got some great guys here—the linebacker from Clemson (Dorian O’Daniel). We got a great group of guys.”
Jones and Speaks, in particular, share an interesting connection. In both of their respective draft years (2016 and 2018), the Chiefs opted to trade their first-round pick.
Both thus ended up being the Chiefs’ top pick for each year despite it coming in the second round. Now the two former college rivals are barbecuing together.
“Me and Speaks hang out—I grill for the guy,“ Jones said with a smile. “The guy is a fatty. He was supposed to be D-tackle, but he was fortunate enough to run a little so they put him at D-end, but that‘s my guy. We had steaks, pork chops. We‘re some fat kids, man. You have to understand, we have a lot of meat with a few vegetables. It was a cheat day.“
And Jones’ welcoming nature does not stop with Speaks. He is trying to make sure all on the defensive side of the football feel at home.
“You know, I’ll curse them out,” he laughed. “[I’ll] get them to buy me lunch, feed them all these stories that they have to do all this extra stuff, which they really don’t have to.”
The Chiefs have made a point of it this offseason that they are pushing a new defensive mindset—one of toughness they maybe didn‘t have last year, especially when it came to the playoffs.
Jones is promoting that toughness in his own way by keeping with his softhearted nature. He wants the players on defense to mesh well off the field and that will lead to a united front on it.
“Us as a defense, what we want to go by starts off with grit, relentless effort,” he added. “Those are some of the main things we go by as a defense, as a group.”