After his much-publicized move to the edge this offseason, defensive lineman Chris Jones played his first full game for the K.C. Chiefs in his new role on Sunday against the Cleveland Browns. He did not disappoint.
The 27-year-old Jones racked up two sacks in the Chiefs’ season-opening win over Cleveland. However, we wanted to take a closer look at how he was used within the defense to get a better idea of what the team is trying to do and what Jones is capable of.
A look at the numbers
Jones spent most of his day on the edge. His usage was remarkably balanced. He lined up at left defensive end on 18 snaps, and at right defensive end on 20 snaps. As expected, Jones also bumped inside to defensive tackle, lining up at on the right side five times and on the left side three times.
Even more remarkably, his usage in the base defense was perfectly balanced. When the Chiefs were in base defense, Jones lined up at left end eight times (where he got one of his two sacks on the day), and also at right end eight times.
Speaking of the base, we saw quite a bit of it yesterday. Despite not having starting linebacker Willie Gay, the Chiefs used quite a bit of 4-3 defense in this game. Anthony Hitchens, Ben Niemann, and rookie Nick Bolton were all on the field together for a surprising 25 snaps (41%).
Down usage was just as balanced for the 6’6″ Jones, as he was at left end on first down eleven times, and at right end on first down eight times. On second downs, he lined up at left end six times and at right end eight times.
The Chiefs occasionally peppered in some nickel, and late in the game were almost exclusively in the dime.
When in the nickel, Jones appeared at left end six times, and at right end seven times. In the dime, Jones was positioned at left end twice and at right end five times (which is where he got his other sack).
Jones was used at defensive tackle mostly in nickel and dime (six of his eight plays from the inside), and, as expected, mostly on 3rd downs (five plays). Interestingly, on the two plays in the game in which the Browns went for it on 4th down, Jones played exclusively on the edge.
A few observations
There was just no pattern to the usage of the Chiefs’ star defender. He was everywhere. Perhaps the greatest weapon to that method of utilizing Jones is that the Browns never knew where he’d be until they had already left the huddle.
It’s also worth pointing out that Jones got a sack from both sides of the field. On the penultimate play of the second quarter, with the Browns at the Kansas City 46-yard-line, Jones beat Chris Hubbard for a sack on 3rd and 20. The 11-yard loss pushed Cleveland out of any hope of a late field goal at the end of the half.
In the 4th quarter, Jones ruined the Browns’ drive before it even started when he bent right around right tackle Jack Conklin for his second sack of the day. It botched Cleveland’s drive, which would later result in punter Jamie Gillan fumbling the snap and giving the ball to the Chiefs in their red zone.
One more snippet: it’s worth a quick mention that Jones was not on the field when Browns running back Nick Chubb scored on an 18-yard touchdown in the 2nd quarter. The play-by-play announcers lavished praise on the Browns’ offensive line for the gaping hole that was created on the run. But Jones was on the sideline while rookie Joshua Kaindoh (who played a pretty decent first NFL game) got caught crashing down on the play.
This bodes well for the Chiefs defense and Jones. Even without fellow defensive end Frank Clark active, Jones was unaffected. This is why he is elite. Opposing offenses won’t have a good idea of where to find the All-Pro, and he will continue to frustrate opponents as the season unfolds.