Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots surprised many Patriots fans this offseason when they "abandoned" their previous draft philosophy of trading back in the first round of the NFL draft. They moved up from No. 27 overall to No. 21 and drafted Syracuse defensive end Chandler Jones.
At the time, he was seen as a "project." Sports Illustrated summed up Jones in their draft preview, rating him a 3.00 (a "first-year contributor" rather than a "quality prospect"):
Jones was a terrific college pass-rusher who also showed the ability to make plays in open space. He possesses upside potential and should eventually develop into a productive starting defensive end on a four-man line.
Fortunately for Patriots fans, "eventually" seems to be a lot closer than analysts thought. NESN.com reported today that Chandler Jones is the NFL's Defensive Rookie of the Month for September.
Jones had an impressive month, recording three sacks and two forced fumbles. The second was against the Arizona Cardinals, which was recovered by another Patriots rookie, Tavon Wilson. The first of those, in Week 1 against the Tennessee Titans, was especially memorable, as it was scooped up and returned for a touchdown by yet another Patriots rookie, Alabama linebacker Dont'a Hightower (see the video here).
Jones' stats could have been even more impressive if the referee lockout had not occurred: Jones had a sack of Joe Flacco in the fourth quarter of the Patriots' loss to the Baltimore Ravens that was wiped out on a dubious holding call against Brandon Spikes.
In 2008, Jerod Mayo became the Patriots' first Defensive Rookie of the Year, winning 49 of 50 votes. Patriots fans have plenty of reason to think that Jones could become the Patriots' second DROY this year.