Chris Jones can take over a game as quickly as any player in the National Football League.
At 6’6” 310 lbs, Jones combines high-end athleticism, technique and raw power to be a demon both as a pass rusher and as a run defender. His most valuable trait however might be his violent, explosive hands which often find themselves detonating on offensive linemen’s elbows and chests on Jones’ way to the ball carrier.
Jones plays his best during his team’s biggest moments, it’s part of what makes him such an exciting player. One of his best plays in the AFC Championship game when Buffalo had 3rd down and 3 from Kansas City’s ten-yard line with a chance to make it a one-score game. Jones beats the Bills’ Jon Feliciano with a picture-perfect club move and flushes Josh Allen to his right, blowing up a great scoring opportunity for the Bills.
If he can continue his hot-streak against the Buccaneers in the Super Bowl, I have no problem seeing Jones becoming the 11th defensive player in NFL history to win Super Bowl MVP. Here’s more of what fans can expect to see from him in the big game.
The Desolation of the Cleveland Browns
The Browns entered their divisional round matchup against the Chiefs with as talented a right side of an offensive line as we’ve seen from any team this season. Right tackle Jack Conklin is fresh off an All-Pro selection, Wyatt Teller might just be the best guard in football and center JC Tretter has been playing at a high-level in Cleveland for the last three seasons.
None of that mattered when it came to handling Jones on what proved to be Cleveland’s final offensive possession of the 2020-2021 season.
After Patrick Mahomes went into concussion protocol and Chad Henne threw an endzone interception the Browns had their best opportunity to take the lead and upset the defending champions. There isn’t a better example of what Jones can bring to a defense than this final series against the Browns.
2nd and 6 from Cleveland’s 24 (Q4 7:19)
Jones makes quick work of Teller and Conklin’s double team here. He prevents them from getting any movement on him, he controls his gap and when Teller works to the second level to try and (unsuccessfully) seal off Anthony Hitchens, Jones gets off of Conklin’s block and puts his elite quickness on display while getting to running back Nick Chubb in time to help make the stop for no gain.
1st and 10 from Cleveland’s 31 (Q4 5:17)
After the Browns turn a Baker Mayfield QB sneak into a fourth down conversion, Jones makes another freak-athlete type play against the run. Jones gets off the ball obscenely quick here and he slants down hard into the A-gap. The fact that he’s slanting towards his right already makes Conklin’s job much more difficult, but his takeoff makes it impossible. Jones is moving before the ball even leave’s Tretter’s hands and he gets upfield quickly, splitting Conklin and left guard Joel Bitonio’s cut blocks before getting a piece of Chubb’s jersey and creating a tackle for loss. Jones is just something to behold here. The most difficult part of this rep for Cleveland is that it looks like if Jones doesn’t make this play the Browns could’ve had a nice gain. Better luck next year.
3rd and 11 from Cleveland’s 30 (Q4 4:31)
After a failed screen pass on second and long, Jones is able pin his ears back to rush the passer. Jones uses his left arm to clear Teller’s hands as he blows by him on his way to putting a big hit on Mayfield. This rep is a perfect example of Jones’ elite hand usage. Jones made Mayfield throw to his checkdown and Kansas City rallied to make the stop nine yards before the first down marker. Cleveland elected to punt, Chad Henne played the hero, KC was one win away from the Super Bowl and they had one colossal man from Houston, Mississippi to thank for it.
Jones’ Super Matchup
I wrote extensively about the Buccaneers’ new starting right guard Aaron Stinnie ahead of the NFC Championship. I pointed out that while Stinnie played well against the New Orleans Saints he had some worrying reps against New Orleans’ most athletic interior defensive lineman and that handling the Packer’s Kenny Clark would be a steep challenge.
Clark is a certified ass-kicker and he gave some of the more celebrated members of the Bucs offensive line trouble as well, but the way he attacked Stinnie might have Jones licking his chops.
On this play from the first quarter, Clark beats Stinnie by using his left arm to create space and leverage. A lot of Jones’ best pass-rushing reps have looked a lot like this one.
In the second quarter, Stinnie gives up a sack when he can’t anchor against Clark’s bull rush. Stinnie’s worst rep against the Saints also happened to come against a David Onyemata bull rush.
The bull rush is one of Jones’ favorite moves as he displayed against the Bills’ Dion Dawkins in the AFC Championship game.
There is hope for Stinnie however.
He didn’t always look like lunch meat against Clark, here he handles him very well despite the fact that Clark gets an excellent takeoff.
While Jones had another strong game against the Bills, Stinnie’s fellow former undrafted free agent Ike Botteger had a few impressive reps against Jones, like when he got into his ribs and turned this attempted swim move into a pancake.
The Bucs will need Stinnie to become an unlikely hero and have the best game of his career against Jones and the Chiefs if they want to win their first championship in 19 years. If Stinnie can keep Jones from dominating, he’ll deserve the MVP.
But my money’s on the champ.