The Indianapolis Colts are Divisional Round bound after a 21-7 victory over the Houston Texans. The Colts dominated the game from start to finish and it really was an impressive overall game. Their next opponent shouldn’t be as easy though as they are set to face the number one seed Kansas City Chiefs in Arrowhead on Saturday. The Chiefs have a load of talent on the offensive side of the ball but there is one player in particular who stands out on their defense.
That player is defensive tackle Chris Jones, who finished the year with 15.5 sacks from the interior.
Jones is an absolute game wrecker on a defense that has struggled overall to match the play of their offense. Despite the defensive struggles on the Chiefs though, Jones has caught the eye of many analysts and other teams after recording at least one sack in the last 11 games of the regular season. Jones was named 2nd Team All-Pro this year for his outstanding season. In this scouting report, I’m going to be looking at the biggest strengths he offers for the Chiefs and how the Colts can counter his strong play.
Height: 6’6” / Weight: 310 pounds / Age: 24
40 Yard Dash: 5.03 / Bench Press: 26 reps / Vert Jump: 24.5 / Broad Jump: 106
Jones has one of the most devastating bull rushes in football. He has an excellent leg drive through blockers and his length and size make him insanely hard to move. When he keeps his feet moving, he is a very hard match-up for guards and centers on the interior. The key to blocking against this go-to move is making sure the guard makes first contact. If Jones is able to engage first with his long arms and 6’6” frame, it is very tough for the guard or center to win the rep. He excels at driving lineman back into the face of the quarterback and disrupting pass plays from that position.
Here Jones (#95) is able to drive guard Jeremy Vujnovich— remember him from his Colts’ days?— right into the face of Josh Rosen and force a fumble on the play. He gave guards fits all year with this bull rush.
Strength and Finesse
Jones can do it all as a pass rusher and has really refined himself since entering the league. Once heralded as a “raw player with all the tools” by draftniks such as Mike Mayock, Jones has really developed into a rusher who can win in a multitude of ways. From beating double teams to executing swim moves to even dipping his shoulder and bending through the interior, Jones is a handful when getting after the quarterback. Luckily the Colts have arguably the best guard in football on one side —Quenton Nelson — and another top 15 guard in the league on the other side — Mark Glowinski — to try and contain this massive pass rusher.
First rep here shows Jones ripping through a double team to hit Phillip Rivers as he releases the ball. With his constant leg drive and very active hands, he makes splitting this double team look much easier than it should be.
Next rep Jones shows really impressive strength as he goes under the block of the guard for the sack. Great effort to chase down Rivers from behind on this sack.
The biggest attribute that Jones brings to this Chiefs’ defense is his pure athletic ability. Jones is really twitchy and fast for a man of his size. Jones is not a great run defender by any means but he makes a lot of big, disruptive plays because of how athletic he is. The strength and pass rush moves are great but what really separates him from most of the league is how quick and athletic he is. That is typically the difference between a good defensive tackle and a great defensive tackle. Jones has shown this year that he has the ability to be a great defensive tackle for a long time.
Look at the distance he he covers on this zone run. Jones fights all the way down the line of scrimmage from the right side of the screen to fill the hole and make the tackle for a very short gain.
Another outstanding play here as Jones is able to swim past the guard and make a tackle on Todd Gurley in the backfield. I can’t name too many defensive tackles athletic enough in the NFL to make this type of play.
On this play, the Patriots try a trap play to block the penetrating Jones— a type of play the Colts run often. Jones is way too quick up field and is able to dive and swat the ball out of Tom Brady’s hands for the fumble. Way too athletic for a 6’6” player.
Where the Colts can beat him
Give a lot of attention to him early
This may seem self explanatory but the key to slowing down a player like Jones is taking him out of the game early. Not only does that take him out of the play but it eventually deters his motivation and effort for the rest of the game. Although he has clearly cleaned things up a bit since his college days, Jones’ effort and motor on a play to play basis are still a bit inconsistent.
To highlight that concern when he was a draft prospect, here is what Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller had to say about him in a scouting report:
“When looking for on-field issues, Jones can be inconsistent and tended to play down to his competition. He didn’t always meet power with power on the line and gave average effort when the play was away from his side of the line.”
To reiterate, Jones has cleaned up this flaw a bit since his college days but it does still rear it’s ugly head on occasion when Jones isn’t making an impact early. The best example of this came in the game against the Patriots as they schemed to put a bunch of bodies on Jones early.
Outside of the clip above, Jones was relatively quite all game against the Patriots. That is because they had a lot of focus on him, particularly early in the game. Here, Jones is rushing inside against the center but both guards are watching inside and ready to help. The left guard keeps his hand on Jones to keep him controlled while the right guard hits him at the end of the rep too. This much attention took him completely out of the play.
As a result of this constant attention early, Jones began to have more and more reps where he would stop his feet and essentially give up on his rush. Look at this clip here. Jones is the left defensive tackle and once he engages the double team, he completely stops moving his feet. He has the strength to push through double teams like this but he mentally gave up on this play as soon as he saw another double team come his way.
Jones is an excellent player who will make his fair share of plays but the game-plan needs to be to get bodies on him early and often to take him out of the game physically and mentally on Saturday.
Chris Jones is an exceptional player for the Chiefs who really broke out this year. His 11 straight games with a sack to end the year is truly impressive and his 15.5 sacks in only 15 games played for a defensive tackle should get way more talk for how impressive it was.
The goal for the Colts on Saturday should not be to eliminate Jones from the game— although that would be nice— but rather to limit him. He is an ascending player, he is going to make his fair share of plays. If the Colts can get a lot of bodies on him early in the game however, I like their chances of holding him to a quiet game.
Something is obviously going to give on Sunday as the Colts have given up 0 sacks this season when their preferred starting offensive line of Castonzo- Nelson- Kelly- Glowinksi- Smith has played and the Chiefs have three players along their defensive front with 9 or more sacks. The big match-up that everyone will watch though is how Quenton Nelson does against Jones. I like the All-Pro rookie’s chances.