Something I’m not used to happened Friday afternoon after practice at Kansas City Chiefs media availability.
Offensive lineman Mitch Schwartz finished his press conference by talking about the cooking hobby he picked up this offseason, so the first question to the seemingly-always lighthearted Chris Jones was whether or not he could handle his own cooking show.
Jones handled the question as expected, smiling as he said, “I couldn’t cook as good as him but I could try to put it down.”
A few minutes later, I asked him for his personal sack goal.
“Lead the NFL,” Jones said.
A few of my fellow media members and I laughed, but Jones remained stone-faced.
And as he continued to talk, it hit us.
He was 100 percent serious.
“I’ve been talking about it all summer,” Jones said. “I’ve been voicing it to my teammates. I want to lead the NFL in sacks. I believe that wholeheartedly. You have to speak it to believe it.”
Now in his third year, at the age of 24, the Chiefs top pick in 2016 has become a staple on the Chiefs defensive line. Jones had a career-high 6.5 sacks in 2017, including three sacks against the eventual Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles alone.
According to the deeper numbers provided Pro Football Focus, his 88.2 overall grade was 12th among interior defenders for the season, and he also finished as the ninth-highest graded interior pass-rusher (85.2). He had 38 total quarterback pressures.
And there are already signs this training camp that Jones is in the best shape of his life.
On Thursday morning, Jones tweeted he “dominated” his conditioning test.
Just dominated 15 1/2 gassers...— Chris Jones (@stonecoldjones_) July 26, 2018
1st time in 2yrs, this is going to be special.
It was the first time in three seasons since being drafted that he took the test.
“I actually haven’t been to a training camp in two years,” Jones explained. “Last year, I dealt with a meniscus tear. Unfortunately, I was not here. I finally did the conditioning test and I killed it [Thursday]. I think I was more surprised than the team ... I felt good about it.”
As Jones remains ever confident about his own abilities, he’s also turned some of his attention to his younger teammates this camp.
Xavier Williams and Allen Bailey are fellow veterans on the line, but 2018 third-rounder Derrick Nnadi and undrafted free agent Dee Liner are new to the professional ranks.
Jones has taken them under his wing.
“[I’m] bringing them along, getting them to pace,” Jones said. “We got a lot of young guys, and we’re going to have to use them during the season, so we want to get them on board, get them to our speed, get them competing day in and day out because it’s a huge transition from college to the NFL.
“It’s a lot to work with. Bring those guys along, show them the ropes, bring them on board.”
Much of the talk regarding the Chiefs this offseason has been about the offensive firepower, with very little attention given to the defense.
With that in mind, reporters wanted to know whether Jones thought the Chiefs are good enough defensively right now to win a championship.
Jones answered as you’d expect.
“Of course we are,” he said. “You look at the talent we have on defense. I think Coach Reid and Brett Veach, the amount of talent, the group of guys they brought in to this. Starting from our safety, Eric Berry, Justin Houston, Dee Ford, Allen Bailey, just those group of guys. You bring young guys in, who love to compete it makes us better. It’s all about competition around here. Competing day in and day out. We challenge each other every day and that’s what we like to have around here. People who are going to go out balls to the wall and challenge every day.”
That will continue Saturday morning when the Chiefs put the pads on for time this training camp.
If Jones is going to lead the league in sacks, he’ll need to make the most of every rep.