Jones, who has forgone his senior season at Syracuse, was projected by many to be a first-round talent caliber kind-of-player that is the first legit defensive end prospect out of Syracuse since Dwight Freeney.
The 22-year-old fits the perfect build for a 4-3 defensive end as he stands in at 6'5" and weighs a solid 265 lbs. With New England deciding to shake things up defensively last season and switch from the 3-4 alignment to the 4-3, it appears that Jones might be the team's most talented defensive end since Richard Seymour.
Jones should project to be one of New England's starting defensive ends in 2012 as he'll have to battle it out with Trevor Scott, Jonathan Fanene, Brandon Deaderick, Jermaine Cunningham and Jake Bequette.
Jones is definitely talented enough to emerge as one of the team's starters, but I still have my doubts with him as I found myself scratching my head when I got wind of his decision to skip his senior season at 'Cuse.
When New England selected Jones, I wasn't all that excited of the selection, as I felt that he is a very raw talent that still has some work to be done. However, from watching film on this guy, I soon realized that he is the perfect prospect for the 4-3 defensive end position—he fits the build perfectly.
Jones has long arms that he can use for his advantage, he's extremely athletic and is very quick off of the ball. He's a very balanced pass-rusher that has a nice combination of speed and power, he's a very physical tackler that uses his arms to wrap the ball carrier and he is born leader—something that head coach Bill Belichick loves in his players.
Years from now, Jones should very well be the face of New England's defense—there's no doubt that he has the character to be the team's defensive captain.
But that's a few years down the road, so what should we expect from him in 2012?
I'm not too sure that we'll see his name being partnered with NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, but he will certainly be a contributor. I undoubtedly see him being a starter and could be as productive as Andre Carter was a year ago.
Another interesting note to take notice of is that we could very well see Jones playing in not only a down-lineman stance, but he could also be standing up as an outside linebacker. In a media conference Belichick expressed what he'd like to do with the rookie, per the Boston Globe. "We played both odd and even front last year, I think we’ll continue to be multiple that way, but he’s more of an end-of-the-line player."
Jones has all the tools to be an "elephant" in New England's 4-3 defense. We haven't seen the Patriots utilize a player in that role to it's fullest in quite sometime, in fact the most memorable player to perfect that role with New England was Willie McGinest.
There's no doubt that Jones will be an effective pass-rusher, but he should be athletic enough to be able to drop back into coverage.
2012 should be a very productive season for the Syracuse product. His talent might be raw, but he's talented enough to be a first-year impact player. For a final stat-line, I could see him ending up with 60 tackles and close to 10 sacks.
Be sure to check out Tony Santorsa's blog: PatriotsPlus.
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