Last night, the New England Patriots witnessed the kind of dominance they could see in the future from rookie defensive end Chandler Jones. In yesterday's preseason game against the New Orleans Saints, Jones showed the Pats why he deserved being picked at the No. 21 slot in the 2012 NFL draft.
Jones' play made Patriots fans and personnel extremely optimistic about what he could do in the NFL. Many were wondering if Jones could be a potential Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate. Is that a legitimate prediction? Could Chandler Jones actually end up being the best defensive rookie in the 2012 draft class?
The answer is yes, and here are three reasons why.
1) He Got Good Pressure in a Tough Matchup Last Night
Jones started the game at DE. He consistently brought pressure on whichever quarterback the Saints had playing. What was even more impressive was that, for most of the first quarter, Jones was pitted against offensive tackle Jermon Bushrod, who was selected to the Pro Bowl last year. Essentially, Jones made a Pro Bowl guard look like a rag doll.
The young pass rusher was able to control Bushrod with his long arms and used his strength and wide array of moves to get past him. Jones got into the Saints backfield several times. He was such a strong force that offensive linemen had no choice but to commit a penalty and hold him by the jersey.
It's a very good sign if Jones is penetrating well against elite competition.
2) Physical Tools Are at His Disposal
Chandler Jones is a freak of nature. He's built like a tree, standing 6'5" and weighing in at 265 points. But what sets him apart is his incredible athleticism. For his size, his vertical jump (35"), broad jump (120") and 20-yard shuffle (4.38 seconds) marks are very good.
Jones also has arms that are 35.5 inches long, which allows him to get great separation from his blockers. He is then able to shed his blockers and pursue the quarterback and ball-carrier.
Last night, it seemed as though Jones used all of his physical gifts well; he showed that he could bull-rush, hold off blockers and chase down the quarterback.
3) The Opportunity is Available in New England
The biggest reason why Jones will have a great shot at DROY is because he will have all the opportunity in the world in New England. It seems as if the Patriots are content with leaving Andre Carter on the free agent market because of what they have in Jones.
The former Syracuse DE was listed as the unofficial starter on the Pats' depth chart. With no other real option at defensive end, Jones is a near lock to start the season opener against the Tennessee Titans.
If the Patriots offense can repeat or one-up its performance from last year, Jones will have plenty of chances to go after the quarterback late in games while opposing teams are trying catch up through the air.
In addition, it doesn't hurt that Jones plays the run very well.
All in all, Chandler Jones will be a star in New England. The pass rush will greatly benefit from Jones' presence, and he should be able to put up great numbers as a member of the Patriots.
When the time comes, expect Chandler Jones to be in the thick of things for Defensive Rookie of the Year.