Kansas City Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones spoke to reporters after Thursday’s practice from training camp at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph, Missouri.
Entering his seventh season, Jones took a more team-oriented position than we’ve heard him make in previous seasons.
“My goal is to make sure this d-line is one of the best d-lines in the league,” he claimed. “Whether it’s sacks, whether it’s playing the run [or] whether it’s being gritty on the field. I feel like the defense drives off the d-line.
“My point of emphasis is that we take this day by day — it’s a journey. But as long as we’re making strides — 1% better than yesterday — then we’re going in the right direction.
“If the d-line plays like a menace, I feel like we set the tone for this defense. I feel like that’s a huge aspect for us — me and [defensive end] Frank Clark — right now: to make sure we set the tone day-to-day for this defense. Make sure we set the bar high [for] what we expect from the younger guys.”
Jones enters the season as the team’s longest-tenured defensive player — one of just five Chiefs remaining from 2019’s championship season. He now sees a defensive line group that has been bolstered by first-round selection George Karlaftis from Purdue and new defensive line coach Joe Cullen.
“He’s a high-energy guy,” Jones said of Karlaftis. “He’s very teachable. He’s here to learn. On the path that he’s on, I think he’ll be a good asset for us on the d-line. He’s still learning — [but] we all are.”
Jones also showed enthusiasm for his new position coach.
“I think me and Joe see eye-to-eye,” Jones observed. “I love Joe, actually. I think our standards are the same. The bar for the d-line is high — as it should be. I think his expectation level for us — as individuals and also us as a group — is where it needs to be.
“It’s a journey. It’s a day-to-day process. Don’t get too high, don’t get too low. Just try to stay even-flow. Because sometimes you’re going to have really really good days, and somedays the offense might kick our ass. It’s a learning curve for us as a d-line.”
The Chiefs also experienced a high degree of turnover at the other levels of the defense — saying goodbye to longtime leaders like linebacker Anthony Hitchens and safety Tyrann Mathieu. Jones praised the work that safety Juan Thornhill and linebacker Nick Bolton are doing to fill the leadership void.
“A maturity level is increasing [in] Juan Thornhill,” Jones observed. “He’s forced to do more, so when you expect more from a person, they actually give more. Just to see him blossom, for me, it’s excitement. I think Juan’s going to be really really good for us. I think our back end is going to be really, really good.
“[Bolton] has been the same as he’s always been: he’s been very vocal. He’s been a special point on this defense. Nick — since the first time he stepped on the field — you’d see how in awe we were as not only fans. but as teammates. When you see a guy throwing so well, it only can help this defense. We’re glad to have Nick back there.”
As an experienced player who has now weathered difficult times in professional sports, Jones also recognizes the importance of his team’s strong fan support.
“You see how full it is out there,” he said of the crowds in St. Joseph, “and these are just the first two days. I appreciate the support from our fanbase. I love you, KC. It’s very encouraging to us to see how many people come out here and support us.”