One of the more significant storylines surrounding the Kansas City Chiefs during the 2021 offseason has been their intention to move their star defensive tackle Chris Jones to defensive end.
While it’s true that this represents a change for Jones, it might not be as great as people think. Under coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, Jones had already been moved all over the defensive line in different situations. According to data collected by Pro Football Focus, Jones lined up as a defensive end on roughly a third of his 2020 snaps.
The best information we have is that Spagnuolo primarily intends to use Jones on the outside on first and second downs — and then move him inside on third downs. This would suggest that Jones will be playing as an end roughly twice as often as he did last season — but even that could end up being an exaggeration, since Spagnuolo has said that Jones’ use will also depend on the opponent and matchups against specific players.
But however it plays out, Jones is excited to start holding down the edge with his old friend Frank Clark — and his new friend Jarran Reed, the former Seattle Seahawks defensive tackle whom Kansas City signed in the offseason.
“It’s going to be really fun,” he told reporters on Thursday, as the team prepared for its season opener against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday. “It’s going to be really fun to have my brother on the edge — and to have J-Reed on the inside. He’s been a great addition to this defense. His presence means a lot for this defense — and gave us the flexibility to move me outside. So for me, it’s an honor to be playing with those guys — and what they bring to this defense.”
Jones is also looking forward to getting back in front of a full Arrowhead Stadium — and said that he intends to do nothing to temper his excitement.
“There’s no cool on Sunday,” he grinned. “We’re going to have a lot of fans there; I might jump out of my helmet. It’s no time to be cool. Coach Andy Reid preaches to let your personality show. I’ll be full-blast.”
Jones said one of the team’s most prominent challenges in Week 1 would be to stop the Cleveland running game — which includes a familiar face.
“The overall team is built to run the ball,” he noted. “We used to have Kareem Hunt — who was very aggressive. Nick Chubb and those guys set the standard. They’ve got elite wide receivers with Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry, so they present all types of challenges for our defense. So you have to play fast [and] physical — and try to match the physicality they’re giving us.”
And he said that he isn’t worried about the Browns being amped up to defeat the team that handed them a loss in the Divisional round of the 2020 postseason. Jones has seen it all before.
“You’re playing in the NFL,” he said. “Every game, I feel like, is a statement piece. You can’t worry about last year. Every team is different going into this year — and every team’s mindset is different. Everyone is 0-0 right now, so you’re still fighting for 1-0. So that’s how we present it — and that’s how we’re going to go in at it.”
And even though many observers think Jones will increase his sack production in his new role — especially our own Pete Sweeney, who made a bold prediction about it — the leader of “Sack Nation” denied being focused on it.
“I’m not worried about no sacks, man,” he insisted. “Listen: our goal — especially my goal — is to do whatever I possibly can to get myself in a position to make a play and better my teammates. Sacks are like a plus. I try to do my job first — and whatever happens within the play is the very fortune of it.”
As for how well he’ll make the transition into his new role on the team’s defense, Jones remained laconic.
“It’s a building process into Sunday, man,” he said. “We’ll see where it goes.”