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Chris Jones’ season debut impresses teammates, coaches: ‘It’s special’

With no training camp or preseason preparation, Kansas City’s star pass rusher picked up where he left off.

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Jacksonville Jaguars Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

At the time of the Kansas City Chiefs17-9 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, it had been less than a week since defensive tackle Chris Jones had reported to practice to began his preparations for the season.

The vast majority of his teammates had been together since the end of July, with countless practices and film sessions to prepare them for these games.

But Jones walked in on Monday. And six days later, he put on a show.

Jones recorded two tackles, 1.5 sacks and a pass defended to lead a Chiefs’ defense that did not allow a touchdown to another AFC contender. Because of the circumstances, Jones was going to be a storyline no matter what happened. But as far as quarterback Patrick Mahomes was concerned, there was just one word for Jones’ performance: crazy.

“To be able to make that impact on a game — after not being in training camp?” he asked incredulously after the game. “You can work out as much as you want off the field. But to be able to come to Jacksonville — where it’s hot and humid — and dominate against a great team? It’s special. It truly is special — and I’m glad he’s on my team.”

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Jacksonville Jaguars Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Even then, his performance took place while he was on a limited snap count. He was frequently rested on running downs so he could save his energy for pass-rushing situations. While that was the plan coming in, his production couldn’t have been anticipated.

“I figured he’d be able to play like half a game,” head coach Andy Reid told reporters after the contest. “We shuttled him in and out; he did a great job with it. Over the years here, he’s learned to keep himself in shape. So when I saw him out at practice, he was moving around pretty good. His endurance seemed good, so I felt comfortable that he could go in there and do his thing. [But] maybe not to that level.”

Most of Jones’ production came as an edge rusher, lining up over Jacksonville’s rookie right tackle Anton Harrison. He was relentless against the first-year blocker — and that was made possible by the creativity of defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, who has always seen value in Jones rushing from the edge.

“We’ve been building that,” revealed Jones. “Ever since last year — since Spags came in — it’s been about communication and trust between us: that I know my plays, that I know the defense inside and out — and [him] being comfortable with me getting outside.”

The biggest play he made came on Jacksonville’s last possession, when he closed in for a sack on fourth down.

“That’s what I’m here for — especially — for plays like that,” noted Jones. “When my number is called, I try to answer that. We’re just going to continue — to pick up where we left off.”

Tight end Travis Kelce was also happy to see Jones back on the field — saying that on Sunday, Jones “looked like the 95 I know.”

The two walked into the locker room together, smiling for some nearby cameras. While it was a little moment, it was one that a veteran leader like Kelce took seriously.

“I just wanted to make sure he felt that he was every part of this — from the jump — that he’s always been,” said Kelce. “I love that guy. Sometimes contracts — things like that — can get in the way... I just wanted to make sure he knew we were happy as hell to get him back out there on the field — and in the building. His energy is needed.”

While the team (and its fans) certainly missed Jones’ energy and smile, it was his ability to sack the quarterback that was needed the most. It was a key factor in Kansas City beating an AFC contender on the road — and avoiding an 0-2 start.

On Sunday, Jones not only proved his value to the team, but also turned in a strong start to his journey to hitting the incentives he negotiated for the 2023 season.

One of them is to once again become an All-Pro — and on Sunday, he certainly looked like one.

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