I was one of Jones' biggest critics coming out of Syracuse and had serious doubts about his ability to stand up and rush off the edge. I saw a player with a lot of untamed strength, great length and unlimited upside as a defensive lineman, but when Jones was asked to stand up and rush off the edge or drop back into coverage he looked awkward and uncomfortable.
What I did not put enough stock into was how much his knee injury was affecting him. Jones hurt his knee in Syracuse's first game of the 2011 season against Wake Forest, missed the next five games and was obviously still affected by it through the rest of his junior season.
This is apparent after watching him early in training camp and against the Saints on Thursday. Not only has Jones bulked up this offseason, but he also looks quicker and more fluid on a fully healed knee. The increase in strength will only add to his already impressive ability to set the edge and anchor against the run, while also boosting his bull rush. The added agility will improve his developing set of rush moves by increasing his quickness and change of direction.
Jones' long arms give him his biggest advantage. His length allows him the ability to distance himself from opposing offensive linemen and easier shed blocks by not getting encapsulated. Once he gets that extra room, he can easier push his opponent back or spin or swim out of the block.
Jones didn't fill up the stat sheet on Thursday, but he did draw multiple holding calls on Jermon Bushrod and was a constant presence in the Saints backfield. Jones disappeared at times in college, and based on his performance thus far in a Patriots uniform, we might be able to chalk that up to returning to the field before fully recovering from injury. Now that his knee is healed, though, the sky is the limit for the first-round pick.
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