FOXBORO -- Chandler Jones, productive at defensive end as a rookie, is broadening his second-season horizons. The 23-year old worked his tail off this spring, conditioning with his brother and MMA fighter, Jon "Bones" Jones.
"This offseason' [was] great. I was doing a lot of 'no hands' technique, a little boxing with my brothers, and it's definitely helping. It definitely helps, especially down in the trenches."
It paid off.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick said this week that the 6-5, 265-pound Jones first arrived in New England with decent natural strength, but the offseason program added something more to his game. Consequently, Jones has earned his coach's confidence to be moved inside for several plays this year.
"Guys like him that have real long arms are never going to win the bench press competition, but they play with good leverage and their strength is their length," Belichick explained. "That’s different than strength being just weight room strength, he has great leverage strength. He uses that to his advantage and that helps him even though he gets out-weighed. His length helps him play against some of those bigger guys, whether they’re guards or tackles."
Jones remains on the edge for most of his snaps. Still, he makes the most of those he sees on the interior. Jones gave the Jets fits last week whenever he played inside. Quarterback Geno Smith was sacked twice, and bothered further when Jones flushed him out of the pocket on a play that ended with a Patriots interception.
"I'm getting familiar with it," Jones said Friday. "Every third down or whenever I get called to go down there, I'll play that position whenever Bill calls that package. It's fun.
"It’s a lot faster. When you’re playing defensive end you don’t have anyone outside of you. When you’re down in the 3 technique or 2-1, there’s a tackle, there’s a center, there’s a guard -- anyone can block you so you have to be ready for any different scheme possible."
Might Jones be the interior pass rusher the Patriots have needed? New England's 37 sacks in 2012 tied both the Ravens and Steelers for 15th in the league. For a team that faced 631 drop-backs that year, the sack-per-pass play isn't exactly astronomical.
Jones has potential to make a positive impact. For his part, dwelling on last week's success isn't part of the plan.
"My biggest focus is trying to stay level-headed, to flush the Jets and move onto Week 3. That’s my biggest thing, forgetting what we did last week and just moving forward and trying to get another win in the win column."