FOXBORO, Mass. — The New England Patriots won’t have any rookie starters in 2014 if all goes according to plan this summer, but Chandler Jones has some valuable advice if any young players are forced to step up.
Jones was an immediate starter for the Patriots after being a first-round draft pick in 2012. The Patriots would prefer to avoid starting rookies, but with plenty of uncertainty at defensive tackle, this year’s first-round pick, Dominique Easley, might need to play on the first team next to Jones.
“Just being level-headed and being consistent everyday — everyday at camp, everyday at practice, everyday in the weight room, everyday in OTAs,” Jones said Tuesday at Gillette Stadium about the advice he gives to rookies. “Being consistent and getting the respect from the players around you and the coaches, so they can get enough confidence to put you out on the field.”
Jones, now in his third year in the NFL, doesn’t consider himself a veteran yet, but he still likes to lead by example during practices. Last year, Jones invited rookies to his house to host a film-study session.
I wouldn’t call myself a vet yet. Not yet,” Jones said. “We still got Vince Wilfork, and Tommy Kelly and Will Smith. We got a lot of vets on that defensive line. I’m still a young guy.
“I always try to lead, especially in drills. I try to lead by example. I’m not huge as a vocal leader. That’s what the older guys are for, but I always try to do my best so the guy behind me or the guy next to me will say, ‘He’s going 100 percent, so I will too.’ “
One of those players who could learn from Jones is Easley, who was selected No. 29 overall by the Patriots out of Florida earlier this month. Jones has been doing his homework on his new teammate, and he’s looking forward to playing next to him.
“He’s doing good. He looks good,” Jones said. “I’ve been watching his highlights and talking to him. I’m excited.”
Jones led the Patriots with 11.5 sacks last season, but he’s still trying to make improvements to his game. Last year, he tried to focus on building up his upper body, and now he’s working on strengthening his legs.
“I try to focus on one thing. When you try to focus on too many different things, you’re not getting anywhere,” Jones said. “Last season was my upper body. This year, I’m focusing on my lower body. It can definitely help me with the whole sport of football — changing directions, even my bull rush. I feel like, without your legs, you’re not anything.”
Jones already proved he can be a double-digit sack producer in the NFL, and if he can take the next step in 2014, he could become a perennial Pro Bowl selection for the Patriots.