The New England Patriots defense needs all the good news it can get after last season’s debacle. Luckily for them, that’s exactly what they got from first-round pick Chandler Jones in Week 1 of the preseason.
Jones wreaked havoc snap after snap against the New Orleans Saints and left tackle Jermon Bushrod, an agile pass protector who didn’t have one of his most memorable days. New Orleans’ signal callers seemed to have endless pressure coming from their backside whenever they dropped back to pass and Jones was coming downhill, which occurred during was 14 of his 26 total snaps according to Greg Bedard of The Boston Globe. Of those 14 snaps, five were pressures, which works out to a pressure nearly every three snaps, and he drew one hold (two total) when rushing the passer.
It would be simply incorrect to say that Jones’ impressive play was expected. At Syracuse University, he didn’t always look explosive as a junior and he was very raw, which at times still showed against the Saints. But his strength and use of length was unexpected. He held up well against the run and did an excellent job of using brute strength to push Bushrod back at the point of attack.
As noted, there were several pressures that illustrated the quality of play from the Patriots rookie rusher, but one especially notable play came on the first drive. Jones was used as a LEO (another term is “JOKER”) by playing in two, three, and four-point stances throughout the game, and the latter was the case here as he was in a coiled four-point stance on the outside shoulder of Bushrod in a five-technique alignment.
At the snap, Jones closed the gap between himself and Bushrod by extending his arms out to the blocker and attempting to gain the leverage advantage. Once he made contact with Bushrod, he knocked him back and off-balance with strong hands despite not necessarily having quality hand placement. Ideally, Jones’ hands would be inside of the blocker’s breast pads, which would allow him to drive Bushrod back.
However, that didn’t prove to be an issue as he still startled Bushrod.
As Jones continued his path to the quarterback, he grabbed the right shoulder pad of Bushrod and simply shoved him aside with ease. He pushed the tackle to the side, lifted him off the ground, and knocked him off-balance once again while going after quarterback Drew Brees.
When it was all over, the young Patriots pass rusher didn’t record a pressure or a sack, but he was a threat from the second the ball was snapped. Bushrod needed help toward the end of the play from teammate and left guard Ben Grubbs, who knocked Jones back and slowed him down.
Despite not getting a single sack, Jones pressured the quarterback an impressive five times in his debut in limited snaps, which brings the defense some hope as the Patriots try to get after the quarterback more often after they lost both of their top pass rushers — Andre Carter and Mark Anderson — in the offseason. Carter and Anderson had 20 combined sacks, and while it isn’t reasonable to expect a number anywhere near that from Jones in his rookie season, there are still high expectations of getting pressure on the quarterback after a strong introduction against the New Orleans Saints in Week 1 of the preseason.
As Bill Belichick has preached in the past, rushing the passer isn’t always about sacks. It’s simply about pressuring the quarterback.