Kansas City Chiefs’ Chris Jones is one of the most dominant defensive interior linemen outside of Aaron Donald in the NFL. But that’s not stopping him from trying out a position he hasn’t primarily played during his five years in the NFL. He’s “embracing the opportunity to take those pass-rushing talents to the outside more often as a defensive end in 2021,” the Chiefs announced on June 16.
And now he “looks headed for a career season,” according to ESPN, thanks in part to yoga.
Jones Playing More on Edge
The addition of former Seattle Seahawks defensive tackle Jarran Reed this offseason along with the lack of a strong pass rush opposite of Frank Clark has allowed Jones, 27, to play more defensive end during the offseason and training camp for the Chiefs.
And he played it well, according to Chiefs writer Nate Taylor at The Athletic. “Chris Jones just had a fantastic rep as a defensive end on a short pass to Clyde Edwards-Helaire,” Taylor wrote on July 31. “He’s dominating this team period.”
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Jones’ New Routine in 2021
The familiarity of playing on the edge was there for Jones, who came into the league as a defensive end. But how has he been able to transition so fluently from the interior to the edge? The answer boils down to one word:
Talking with ESPN’s Adam Teicher, Jones explained how a yoga routine this offseason — which included three sessions a week — helped the two-time Pro Bowler slim down a bit so he could excel at the defensive end position.
“I can do some positions I never thought I could do,” Jones said during the interview. “It was fun. I usually do Pilates during the offseason, but I started a little earlier this year for my flexibility. Bending on the edge is a little different than taking the turn [inside] so I wanted to be a little more flexible.”
Coming into the offseason at approximately 310 pounds, Jones also lost about 20 pounds — weighing about 290 pounds now — in order to provide himself with more flexibility and speed off the edge, he told Teicher.
“I came in the league as a defensive end originally,” Jones said this offseason, via Arrowhead Pride’s Ron Kopp Jr. “Unfortunately, we had guys that excelled at that level in Justin Houston and Dee Ford. I waited my time, and thank God — it finally happened for me.”
Jones won’t be permanently staying at defensive end, but his new approach allows Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo the flexibility of deciding where to play the Mississippi State product.
“I’m not a real defensive end. Spags is going to move me around,” Jones told Teicher. “Most likely I’m going to be playing both spots depending on the game plan, whoever we’re playing, and what’s the best matchup.”
In 2020, Jones earned a 90.3 overall defensive grade from PFF, which was second-best among all defensive interior players in the NFL. He also had a 92.3 pass-rush grade, which was also second-best in the league among defensive interior linemen. If he can have a pass-rush grade that’s even remotely close to that as a defensive end in 2021, then Kansas City will have one of the best pass-rush tandems in Jones and Clark in the NFL.
Jones was a second-round pick by the Chiefs in the 2016 NFL draft. Through fives seasons, he has accumulated 120 tackles, 100 quarterback hits, 40.5 sacks and 40 tackles for loss, per Pro Football Reference. He is currently in the second year of a four-year, $80 million deal he signed with Kansas City in 2020.