Did Patriots DE Chandler Jones Live Up to Expectations in 2012?

Erik FrenzSenior Writer IJanuary 11, 2013

ORCHARD PARK, NY - SEPTEMBER 30: Chandler Jones #95 of the New England Patriots celebrates their impending victory during an NFL game against the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium on September 30, 2012 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

Chandler Jones blew my expectations of him out of the water.

The New England Patriots used a 2012 first-round pick to bolster their pass rush, and the early returns were huge.

Before the season began, we set a standard of statistical performance by finding the league's average stats for defensive ends taken between picks 11 and 32 in the first round over the past 10 years (Jones was taken with the 21st pick in the first round).

Here's what I said at the time:

The early success has been limited. As a group, the average stat line was 14.3 games, 7.3 starts, 32.1 tackles, 3.2 sacks, 1.3 forced fumbles. Only one player, Kamerion Wimbley, recorded double-digit sacks in his rookie season. Six of the 24 (25 percent) had five or more sacks in their rookie season.

Jones' six sacks as a rookie put him in that small group of defensive ends. He played as many games as was expected, and had twice as many sacks and three times as many forced fumbles.

He burst out of the gate with a sack-fumble on Titans quarterback Jake Locker in the season opener. He didn't look back from there and logged six sacks over the first eight games of the season. That being said, Jones' success will not be measured by what he did in his first eight games, but what he does over his career. 

He was an early season candidate for the 2012 Defensive Rookie of the Year award, but an ankle injury took him out for two games and he hasn't been the same since; the numbers show he was a pass-rushing force in the first 10 games of the season before the injury, and his production fell off a cliff afterward.

His performance against the run has suffered as well; Jones did not earn a grade lower than minus-0.6 against the run from ProFootballFocus.com in any of his first 10 games, but dipped lower than that in two of the final four games of the season.

There is hope for him to turn it around in the playoffs, however; he dominated the line of scrimmage in both the running and passing game in New England's Week 17 win over the Dolphins, with three pressures and three run stuffs.

Jones had his way with rookie tackle Jonathan Martin, who was making just his fourth start at left tackle. That was abundantly clear when the defensive end blew past Martin on 1st-and-10 in the second quarter, with the Dolphins trailing 14-0.

The Dolphins continually ran away from his side of the field, but Jones found a way to make an impact even on runs that weren't in his direction.

He made his way through a double-team and pushed Martin into the backfield, cutting off the cutback lane where rookie running back Lamar Miller might have turned.

With help from Jerod Mayo, whose containment on the right side forced Miller back inside, Jones powered through and made the tackle in pursuit, despite the run initially heading in the opposite direction.

He will have his work cut out for him against a talented offensive line with the Houston Texans, who are known for their zone-blocking scheme. Jones will likely see a lot of double-teams and chips from tight ends as the Texans look to take him out of plays; they likely won't make the mistake of running right up the middle at defensive tackle Vince Wilfork again.

We'll see how the extra week of rest affects his play, but no matter what happens in the 2012 postseason, it looks like the Patriots have found the perfect blend of pass-rusher and run-stuffer in Jones.


Erik Frenz is the AFC East lead blogger for Bleacher Report. Be sure to follow Erik on Twitter and "like" the AFC East blog on Facebook to keep up with all the updates. Unless otherwise specified, all quotes are obtained firsthand or via team press releases.