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Chris Jones makes NFL Top 100 for the first time

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Entering his fourth year with the Chiefs, Jones is coming off his best season — but can he thrive in 2019?

Jacksonville Jaguars v Kansas City Chiefs

After defensive end Frank Clark was revealed last Tuesday night as 85th on their list of the Top 100 players of 2019, NFL.com hadn’t listed any more Kansas City Chiefs on their annual list. That ended Sunday night, when the league revealed the next group of 10 players. Chiefs defensive lineman Chris Jones made his debut on the Top 100, coming in at 36th.

Jones teamed with Dee Ford to form one of the best pass rushes in the league in 2018 -- at least in terms of sack numbers. The Chiefs’ 52.0 sacks on the year was tied for most in the NFL, and Jones accounted for a team-high 15.5 of them. His career total before last season was 8.5. Despite the lower numbers early in his career, Jones has been elite since the Chiefs drafted him 37th overall in 2016. He has won 15.7 percent of his pass rushes over the last three years, which ranks fourth behind only Aaron Donald, Fletcher Cox and Geno Atkins. Ever heard of them? Jones should be an elite defensive end for a while.

As with all Top 100 picks, NFL.com produced a cool highlight reel for Jones.

Jones (surprisingly or not) reported to training camp on Friday with the rest of the Chiefs veterans, thereby ending his boycott of team activities while he and the team work out a an extension to his rookie contract.

“It was good to have him back,” said head coach Andy Reid on Saturday. “He worked hard. He tested well this morning and then he came out and did this well, so he’s been working.”

But questions remain about how Jones will perform in 2019.

A year ago, the defensive lineman made it clear that his goal for the 2018 season was to lead the NFL in sacks. But in December, then-defensive line coach Britt Reid implied that Jones’ goal had gotten in the way of the team effort.

“There has to be an even balance there,” Reid said at the time. “You can’t be rushing the passer on run downs. There’s no sacks on run downs. He has gotten a lot better. Early in the season, he was probably taking too many shots when he shouldn’t have been. Obviously, we weren’t stopping the run very well. Us tightening that up — and him understanding you can’t get a sack every play — I think that has helped him.”

Jones acknowledged the conflict to reporters.

“It’s just more so about maturing throughout the season — realizing things you didn’t realize early on, and you kind of realize now,” Jones said. “I just look at it as the maturity and the coaching of coach Reid.”

“There’s no pressure. If I get a sack, I get a sack,” Jones added. “If I don’t, I don’t. I just try and make sure I run the scheme of the defense, play hard for my teammates, and affect the quarterback.”

Will Jones — transitioning from playing as a 3-4 defensive end to a 4-3 defensive tackle in the scheme implemented by new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and defensive line coach Brendan Daly — continue to be as effective in 2019?

For his part, Jones doesn’t seem to be concerned about the change in scheme.

“Whether its 3-4 or 4-3 or whatever I’m playing, I feel like I can excel in it,” he told reporters on Sunday.

“It’s very simple, it’s very different,” he said. “A lot of running — but we have well-coached guys. From the assistant guys to the head up, Spags and the way he goes about his business trickles down to his assistants. It makes you commit even more to this team knowing they are putting everything and all into making sure we come out here and be better than we were yesterday.”

Jones said he knew all along that despite missing the voluntary and mandatory offseason programs, he would be reporting to training camp on time, pointing out that his brand ambassadorships for Mosaic Life Care and Special Olympics Kansas City are bigger than he is.

“You know it’s always important — especially when you have new coaches coming in,” he said. “It’s always important to get in the building, get the new plays going, get a feel of the new coaches and what you’re getting into. It’s always important to be around new teammates, you want to be around them.

“It was tough,” Jones said of his holdout, “but you know I felt like it was right at the time. I’m here now — and I’m focused on getting better and winning that Super Bowl and dominating in this league.”

Chiefs in the NFL Top 100

Rank Player
36 Chris Jones, DE
85 Frank Clark, DE
94 Mitchell Schwartz, RT