COMMENTARY | "Cincinnati has traded the 21st pick to New England," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced to the evening crowd gathered inside Radio City Music Hall on April 26, 2012. "With the 21st pick in the 2012 NFL draft, the New England Patriots select Chandler Jones, defensive end, Syracuse."
In that exact moment, the Patriots reeled in a starting right defensive end not only for the future, but for the present. It came in the form of a a long-armed, long-legged Orangeman who was often referred to as the younger brother of mixed martial arts fighter Jon "Bones" Jones and Baltimore Ravens D-lineman Arthur Jones.
But by the time his rookie season in Foxboro was over, the name "Chandler Jones" did not need association.
Once viewed as a project with underwhelming college production, upright fundamentals and questionable upper-body strength, the 6'5", 260-pound pass-rusher amassed 45 tackles, six sacks -- including five in a six-game span -- as well as three forced fumbles and five pass deflections in 14 regular season games for the Patriots.
His performance tapered off as the season progressed, however. Jones suffered an ankle injury against the Indianapolis Colts on Nov. 18 and was forced to miss two contests. When he returned to the field, he wasn't as prolific. His numbers were down, and so was his efficiency forging into opposing backfields.
Jones did finish off his first regular season with a solid game versus the run in Week 17, earning a +4.8 grade from Pro Football Focus. Although, his playoff opportunities were limited due to his lingering injury. He netted a grand total of two tackles in those two postseason tilts.
And, in essence, that was the end of Jones's first NFL campaign. An explosive start. A quiet finish. Yet taking everything with a grain of salt, it's safe to say that Jones exceeded all the expectations penciled out for him.
Well, he at least outdid my own expectations for him. Last July, I wrote the following about Jones's outlook for year one:
"The Endicott, N.Y. native never amassed more than 4.5 sacks in one season for the Orangemen. It's unfair to think he will suddenly break out for 10 sacks right off the bat. Jones put together two seasons of 50-plus tackles, but will that translate from Big East to AFC East competition?"
In hindsight, college statistics aren't the best barometer to go by when judging a player's talent level. I digressed further, dispelling Jones's odds due to New England's positional abundance:
"Jones could very well become a household name in the NFL, yet all good things take time. On the depth chart, Jones is battling the likes of Trevor Scott, Jonathan Fanene, Jermaine Cunningham and Brandon Deaderick."
As we now know, none of whom deprived Jones of a No. 1 role off the edge. Jones was the young upstart head coach Bill Belichick and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia were looking for. With that said, the NFL is a "what have you done for me lately" kind of league. Judging by the reports out of Gillette Stadium, Jones is well aware of that notion as well.
After the Patriots came up short against the Baltimore Ravens, Jones went on Comcast SportsNet New England and revealed his offseason plans. They included working out with his brother "Bones," improving his hand placement and arm strength via boxing.
Four months later in an interview with Patriots Football Weekly, Jones backed up his offseason efforts with the acknowledgment that year two is arguably the most pivotal in a football player's development.
"I feel like you can go two different ways in your career with year two," the 23-year-old Jones said. "I feel like this is the year that establishes you as a player."
If the offseason is any indication, Jones seems well in line to entrench himself even more as an NFL sophomore. That's especially evident from a physical standpoint, seeing how he now weighs in at 270 pounds.
"I had a great offseason. I put on a lot of weight, a lot of muscle actually," Jones added. "My biggest thing wasn't just putting on weight. Some guys will put on weight and they'll run slower. I feel like I really haven't missed a step with the 10 pounds added. The weight was good. It's muscle mass."
From the sounds and the looks of it, the former first-round draft choice is prepared to avoid the ominous second-year slump. Expect a bigger, stronger No. 95 to be out on the field in 2013. And don't be surprised if he exceeds expectations once again.
You can follow Oliver on Twitter @OliverBThomas
- Sports & Recreation
- American Football
- Arthur Jones
- Chandler Jones
- New England
- Baltimore Ravens