Patriots: Chandler Jones back in familiar role
After a disastrous Week 1 defensive performance, the New England Patriots made a few changes to their defensive front for Week 2. Against the Miami Dolphins in the season opener, head coach Bill Belichick and the Patriots’ defense tapped into their roots with more of their old-school 3-4 defensive look, but the Dolphins dominated the game in the trenches to the tune of 191 rushing yards, very little pressure in the passing game, and a front-7 filled with red grades.
The Patriots’ defenders looked like a team full of square pegs in round holes in the opener, particularly defensive end/outside linebacker Chandler Jones. In New England’s 3-4 alignment of old, and most 3-4’s around the league, the defensive end spot is manned by defensive tackle body types with former Patriots Richard Seymour and Ty Warren the perfect prototype for the position at 300 pounds each.
Jones weighs in at only 265 pounds, and has played predominantly on the edge in his first two years in the league, either as a defensive end in a 4-3 or at times as a stand-up edge rusher. In Week 1, he was forced into a 3-4 defensive end role that didn’t appear to fit his skill set and body type. He’s had success on the inside in the past, in fact he’s usually an excellent interior pass rusher in nickel and dime situations, but an every-down role trying to hold his ground against guards and tackles just isn’t a good fit.
Jones played 43 snaps at either 4-technique (head up over the tackle) or 5-technique (outside shoulder of the tackle) in Week 1, both of your traditional 3-4 defensive end spots. He finished with a -5.3 overall grade, but most notably a -2.8 grade in the running game.
New England changed it up in Week 2 and Jones was only cast in the 4 or 5-technique roles six times, with 57 of his 69 snaps coming outside the offensive tackle. The results were much different as Jones put in the most impressive defensive performance of the week posting a +9.0 grade that included a +3.6 effort against the run and a +5.2 mark as a pass rusher.
Belichick and the Patriots are known for switching up their defensive game plans on a weekly basis, so it’s very possible that Jones’ role will continue to change throughout the year, but it’s clear from early returns that he’s better on the edge while limiting his snaps on the interior to pass rush situations.
Follow Steve on Twitter.